Baiada Launches Investigation Into Migrant Worker Exploitation Claims

The big Griffith employer, Baiada, says it is surprised by allegations of exploitation of migrant workers at some of its processing sites.

ABC News, 6 May 2015

This week's Four Corners program on the food supply chain detailed numerous abuses of the working holiday visa, including underpayment and slave-like conditions.

It referred specifically to workers at Baiada chicken processing plants in Adelaide and Sydney.

In a statement, Baiada says the allegations are inconsistent with prior checks and audits on its contract labour providers.

The company says it is committed to the fair and equitable treatment of all workers in accordance with all State and Federal legislation.

Its statement says the specific matters referred to by Four Corners as applying to Baiada have not been raised directly with Baiada, but as a result of the program, a further review has been instigated.

The National Farmers' Federation says the mistreatment of workers has no place on Australian farms.

It says the Four Corners story highlights the need to do more to rid the agriculture sector of rogue operators who wilfully ignore Australian laws and take advantage of vulnerable migrant workers.

President, Brent Finlay, says migrant workers are essential to the agriculture sector.

Mr Finlay says all farmers have a responsibility to make good choices about their employment practices and the contractors they use, but it is a whole of supply chain issue.

The Assistant Immigration Minister says the allegations on Four Corners are concerning and the government has a responsibility to seek to address cases where worker's rights are being compromised.

Senator Michaelia Cash says the Department of Immigration and Border Protection is currently investigating the employment of 417 visa holders by On-Hire Labour firms.

She says underpayments should be referred to the Fair Work Ombudsman.

Senator Cash says new rules requiring payslips as evidence of work in Australia to obtain a second Working Holiday Visa will reduce the possibility of exploitation.

"Any employer engaging or paying workers below those conditions is breaking the law," she said.

"The government does not tolerate the exploitation of workers."

But Labor's acting workplace spokesman, Doug Cameron, says organised criminals could get around the system with fake payslips.

"I don't see that as being the appropriate way to go," he said.

"I think that's just a bit of froth and bubble from the Coalition.

"Simply saying that producing a payslip fixes this shows a great deal of either naivety on behalf of the government or a don't care less approach."

The Fair Work Ombudsman has an interpreter service on 13 14 50 and its website has materials in 27 languages.

There's a call for migrant workers to have mandatory access to a union to ensure they are informed of their rights and can seek help if they are being exploited.

The Transport Workers' Union says state and federal governments must urgently provide training sessions for migrant workers to put an end to slave-like conditions shown by the ABC Four Corners documentary.

National Secretary, Tony Sheldon, says it is time to tip the balance in favour of workers and give them their rights and dignity back.

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