The government’s Seasonal Worker Program is not perfect, but safeguards mean exploitation has decreased in recent years. Whereas outside of the program it remains rampant.
When the pandemic hit, Pacific island countries closed their borders to workers hired through the federal government’s Seasonal Worker Program, preventing them from returning home.
It was understandable — the health systems in these countries would have struggled to deal with an outbreak caused by workers returning from Australia. However, it left thousands of workers stuck here during the non-harvesting and planting season.
Before the outbreak it was not uncommon for these workers to be sending home up to $10,000 for a six- or nine-month placement. COVID-19 has changed that. But in my experience as an advocate for workers on the program, very little of this is down to exploitation.
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