Why employ locals when you can import migrant visa slaves?

Earlier this week I posted a detailed expose on the systemic exploitation of migrant farm workers, which has been exposed repeatedly by a raft of major studies.

Shortly afterwards, it was revealed that the Morrison Government plans to grant farmers even more slave migrant workers:

Backpackers from 13 countries are being targeted by Immigration Minister David Coleman as he seeks to find workers wanted by regional businesses.

Australia is in discussions about expanding the work and holiday visa to people from India, Brazil, Mexico, the Philippines, Switzerland, Fiji, Solomon Islands, Croatia, Latvia, Lithuania, Andorra, Monaco and Mongolia.

Any places made available to backpackers from these nations would be in addition to the existing caps for other nations…

Only this month Greece and Ecuador were added to the program, places were increased for some countries, and the option to stay in Australia for a third year was made available to workers…

Mr Coleman countered suggestions that the scheme was becoming a channel for low-skill migrant workers…

Shanthi Robertson, a senior research fellow at Western Sydney University, said two aspects — the extension of the scheme to a third year and the tweak to allow workers to stay at the same employer for 12 months, up from six months — were concerning.

“The fundamental issue is with tying a particular work situation to obtaining a visa and obtaining more time in Australia,” she said.

“That always opens things up to huge amount of exploitation.”

Joanna Howe, associate professor in law at the University of Adelaide, wrote a report on migrants within the horticulture sector earlier this year and found problems with the working holiday-maker scheme.

“It doesn’t have any of the sponsorship obligations or additional approval requirements that are there in dedicated labour market programs like the temporary skills shortage or seasonal worker program schemes,” she said.

“Plus the tie of further stay to the performance of work — there are real risks in expanding the scheme both in terms of exploitation … and industry, in terms of the sustainability of its labour supply.”

Yesterday, farm lobbies said the Government’s expansion of the backpacker visa scheme didn’t go far enough and demanded a dedicated agricultural visa that gives farmers guaranteed access to cheap migrant labour. From SBS News:

Australia’s Farmers’ Federation has been asking for a stand-alone visa for the agriculture sector. Despite initially signaling its willingness, the Government has all but killed the proposal…

A blueberry farmer in New South Wales’ Coffs Harbour area, Amandeep Singh Sidhu says the problem of labour shortage is ‘very severe’…

Mr Sidhu says the existing arrangements in the form of backpackers visa and seasonal workers visa don’t address this problem… “But the inclusion of developing countries, such as India and Brazil may solve that problem to some extent because they are likely to be more accustomed to the farming work environment.”

However, Mr Sidhu says their demand for a standalone Ag visa remains.

“This is only a temporary solution to the problem. We know the issue of labour supply for the farming sector will only be resolved with a special visa for this sector,” he said.

Here’s more via The ABC:

The Victorian farm lobby says it is insane to expect backpackers alone to address the industry’s labour shortages…

Victorian Farmers’ Federation vice-president Emma Germano said her industry needed an agriculture-specific visa to attract workers that wanted to work on farms.

“We need something more sustainable than that,” Ms Germano said, referring to the Government’s proposal…

Ms Germano said she was frustrated with the Government’s response to her industry’s plea for an agriculture specific visa.

“I feel like we keep being appeased, like these are measures to appease the calls for an agriculture visa.

“We don’t understand why that is such a big issue.”

Hilariously, on the same day, EBA data released by the federal government showed that agricultural workers have received the lowest pay rises of all sectors:

Call me an economist, but isn’t the best way to deal with so-called ‘labour shortages’ to lift wages and encourage workers to shift to your industry? This is a market, after all, and the principles of demand and supply should apply.

Of course, there is no need to lift wages when farmers can simply exploit cheap migrant labour en masse, which would be made even worse under the proposed dedicated agricultural visa.

Remember, the farming sector this year labelled “outrageous” a Fair Work Commission ruling requiring that fruit pickers be entitled to overtime if they work excessive hours.

Farmers have also deliberately chosen to employ migrant workers over locals because they are easier to exploit:

It’s the tale of two job seekers: International backpackers versus Aussie travellers.

Now, some Australians claim they are being pushed out of the job market by overseas visitors.

Charley Newton, 20, is travelling through Queensland on a working holiday, but after applying for 20 picking jobs and finding no success she felt something was awry.

Newton put up a post on Facebook searching for work, but says most responses were the same.

“Good luck, you’re Australian… Australians don’t get work out here,” she said…

Steve Baker from the Australian Workers’ Union says, most likely, the difference is the ease with which overseas workers may be exploited.

“At the end of the day, Aussie workers are not lazy,” Baker said.

“They are being overlooked because overseas workers are easier to exploit.”

For Newton, she’s now facing a return home after failing to find employment.

In addition to the expanded backpacker scheme, there are already two existing visas for agricultural workers from the Pacific: (1) the Seasonal Worker Program (SWP); and (2) the Pacific Labour Scheme (PLS).

The SWP, which has grown some 40% per year, allows workers from the Pacific or Timor Leste to pick fruit and vegetables for up to six months:

Whereas the PLS, which has operated for around two years, allows Pacific Islanders to work in regional Australia in any sector for up to three years.

Given farmers can already hire SWP workers to meet their short-term needs (up to six months) and PLS workers for their long-term needs (up to three years), there is little rationale in also granting them access to a dedicated agricultural visa, especially given these proposed visas are being touted as being “more flexible” (read more open to exploitation).

Migrants are already being exploited en masse across Australia’s farms, crushing wages and working conditions. Why make the situation even worse by further expanding access to cheap foreign workers.

Comments

  1. good time to be a farmer? food wont stop being purchased during the worst of times and they will have the cheapest labour possible.

    • Depends who you are, a large dairy co-op in nz not doing well, I think it had around 150 farms in it and has just been brought out by the Chinese. I think farmers struggle because many are at the mercy of the supply chain middle people such as the large super market chains and they pay peanuts though charge us a fortune, then farmers resort to cheap labor because of no choice sometimes. I don’t know if that’s a general rule of thumb but there are so many distortions in the western economies it’s difficult to point to the real problems

      • I see what you mean and ‘farmers’ was much too generalist from me, i meant more on the upcoming economic pressures if all hell breaks loose its one of the better positions to be in since people cannot afford to not buy food. And if our dollar craters would that hamper the supermarkets ability to buy from outside and be a boon for locals?

  2. Shame we don’t have a border with Mexico. There’d be no problems with cheap farm labor then.

    • Not convinced that better access to Mexican labour would get us cheaper labour than we can already get from India.

  3. robert2013MEMBER

    Adding developing countries to the working holiday visa scheme exposes it for what it is: cheap labour for incompetent bosses. No longer a way to maintain ties between related people because there are no related people, just units of labour.

  4. Posted this article in the macro afternoon yesterday. Just another scam to exploit workers and undercut wages and then they wonder why there is 0 wage growth?

  5. I think the Pacific scheme is the best answer and should be the only scheme expanded. While it may not be ideal to be bringing in easily exploited workers who offshore their wages, at least it has the potential to expand the wealth of our Pacific neighbours and maybe reduce their dependence on Australian aid (super optimistic and unlikely lol). Also has the added benefit of Pacific Islander’s gaining a cultural knowledge of Australia before they move here when their islands sink….

    • I agree with this. Good way to build a better relationship and help then get some dollars in the door.
      And you are right about our responsibility coming from Global Warming. I would rather take all of the islanders than someone from half way around the world.

  6. “At the end of the day, Aussie workers are not lazy,” Baker said.
    Determine Lazy? Stopping for a drink and some shade once an hour? Being a human, using a toilet.
    We are now competing with workers who are used to ten hour days with very few breaks. Even using the toilet is not allowed during your shift in Asian third world jobs.
    Glad I have my own business and house but can’t help feeling depressed about what has happened to our once great country.

  7. Mr Sidhu says the existing arrangements in the form of backpackers visa and seasonal workers visa don’t address this problem… “But the inclusion of developing countries, such as India …

    Shiit, I wonder what Mr Sidhu might be thinking….. why did he pick India, of all places?!?!?!

  8. Trump said this last night ““Democrat lawmakers care more about illegal aliens than they care about their own citizens,””

    THE SAME CAN BE SAID ABOUT THE AUSTRALIAN GOVERNMENT…. THEY CARE MORE ABOUT THE MIGRANTS THAN THEIR OWN CITIZENS LIVES, LIVELY HOODS, HOUSES, SCHOOLS. OH THEY DONT WANT TO OFFEND THEM F$%KING POLITICAL CORRECTNESS CRAP ETC…..