Fiji Seasonal Workers Exaggerated Hardships In Australia

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Pacific Islands Development Program, East-West Center With Support From Center for Pacific Islands Studies, University of Hawai‘i

Labour Minister: Group making excuses to justify quitting

By Tevita Vuibau

SUVA, Fiji (Fiji Times, April 28, 2016) – The issue has been exaggerated and the workers that walked out tried to utilise all avenues to provide misinformation on the situation to support their reasons for walking out of their farms.

This was the word from Labour Minister Semi Koroilavesau regarding Fijians who were part of the Seasonal Worker program who walked off their jobs earlier this year.

The workers quit working for their contractor alleging they were left with hardly any money after deductions for superannuation, health insurance and board were made.

But Mr Koroilavesau, who visited Australia to discuss the Seasonal Worker Program last week, said those claims were untrue.

During his visit, the Labour Minister met Australian Ministers for Foreign and Pacific Affairs as well as Australian Government officials, employers and Fijian workers still on the program.

He said while workers on the scheme had complaints, they were nonetheless happy with the program. Mr Koroilavesau also explained that some Fijians living in Australia influenced the workers to walk off their jobs.

"Fijians who are living now in Australia should actually support the workers and not influence them to come out of the contract that has been established between the Fijian and the Australian governments.

"If they want to interact with our workers overseas, then they must interact positively by encouraging them to stay."

He said the ministry was learning from the situation and would make adjustments to its recruiting process.

"The workers that remained on the farms are from farming communities so they would have been doing farm work and understand the physical requirements for the work.

"Those who have walked out are basically closer to town or have been around the urban areas so they don't understand the physical requirements of working on a farm. I think that's the main issue.

"We've learnt the lesson," Mr Koroilavesau said.

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