AWU secures support for horticulture industry minimum wage and reforms
The Australian Workers’ Union has won important policy commitments at this week’s Australian Labor Party National Conference to combat wage theft and worker exploitation in the nation’s horticulture industry.
The AWU has long campaigned for changes aimed at restoring fairness to the fruit and vegetable sector, including minimum hourly pay rates for pickers, reform of the easily exploited 88-day visa scheme, and a royal commission into industry worker abuse.
The amendments to the ALP National Platform, which were moved by the AWU, note that: “Labor recognises that shocking exploitation in the horticulture industry has persisted for too long without meaningful action by the Coalition Government.
Changes secured by the AWU and Retail Supply Chain Alliance to the Labor National Policy Platform include:
1. Support for a guaranteed minimum wage for fruit and vegetable pickers. 2. Stronger oversight, enforcement and penalties for employers and labour hire firms.
3. Reform of the Working Holiday Maker program to better protect the rights and conditions of visa holders as well as assessing its impact on regional labour markets and industries.
1 March 2021
International students campaign for their return to Australia
Many international students want the sterling credentials of an Australian degree, but their inability to return to Australia amid the pandemic is making this goal more unattainable by the day. Flip-flopping government announcements have left students stranded abroad high and dry — state premiers have floated proposals to bring international students back to Australia, only to later announce that they’ve been put on hold. Remote students have complained about the poor quality of online learning and wish to return to face-to-face learning as soon as possible.
Since December 2020, Voice of International Students Australia (VoISA) has been organising affected students in a bid to “sensitise the Australian government to the plight of international students stuck offshore.” On March 3, 2021, they plan to create a Twitter firestorm ahead of the upcoming cabinet meeting taking place two days later to ensure their issue gets the attention it deserves.
"Our main objective is to raise our voice to what we believe is our right to education, and our right to enter Australia to study on our campuses,” explains one VoISA member, who only wanted to be known as Amna, to Study International via email. “We refrain from posting any derogatory content against Australia or the Australian government and only hope for them to resolve our matter justly."
The Pakistani student, who is pursuing her PhD at a university in Melbourne, said the team had been involved in providing input to the petitioner who submitted petition EN2217 (a petition addressed to the House of Representatives calling for their exemption from Australia’s COVID-19 travel border restrictions), in addition to sending out collective emails to MPs and universities to seek support for their return to Australia, and approaching reporters for media coverage.
Some students are planning to treat the outcome of the March 5 meeting as the last straw — unless there is positive news about their return to Australia, they plan to transfer to universities in Canada or the UK.
8 February 2021
The Australian Government will use skills shortage fig leaf to ramp-up immigration
It is becoming increasingly clear that the Morrison Government will use scaremongering over perceived ‘skills shortages’ to ramp-up immigration once the COVID-19 pandemic ends.
The Morrison Government has convened an inquiry into Australia’s skilled migrant program, to be headed by the Liberal Party’s Julian Leeser. A key aspect of the program it will look at is whether any adjustments are needed to the migration program to spur the economy’s recovery from COVID-19.
The inquiry comes as some employers claim they are struggling to find Australians who are willing to do certain jobs. One suggested solution is to roll over visas so that migrant workers don’t need to return to their own country when their work visa expires.
Opening up the immigration floodgates in response to purported ‘skills shortages’ would be a retrograde move that would reduce the bargaining power of Australian workers, in turn lowering wage growth and keeping unemployment higher than it otherwise would be.
It would also hinder Australia’s productivity growth by crush-loading the cities, discouraging businesses from investing in automation and labour saving technologies, and diluting Australia’s capital and resources base.
Low wage growth is now considered by many economists, including RBA governor Phil Lowe, as being one of the key barriers to the Australian economy’s post pandemic recovery.
Ramping up immigration when there is so much spare capacity in the labour market will only make the situation worse.