Foreign workers exploited at chicken production plants

Posted February 14th, 2019 by admin and filed in 杭州夜生活
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Overseas workers at Australian poultry factories have been paid as little as $11.


50 per hour while working shifts of up to 19 hours a day, an investigation has found

A report from the Fair Work Ombudsman (FWO) into the practices of Baiada Group, an Australian poultry producer, found that migrant workers are being exploited at the company’s processing sites in Beresfield, Hanwood and Tamworth.

Key findings of the FWO report regarding Baiada’s work practices:

Non-compliance with a range of Commonwealth workplace lawsVery poor or no governance arrangements relating to the various labour supply chainsExploitation of a labour pool that is comprised predominantly of overseas workers in Australia on 417 working holiday visas, involving:

– significant underpayments

– extremely long hours of work

– high rents for overcrowded and unsafe worker accommodation

– discrimination

– misclassification of employees as contractors. 

Baiada Group allegedly arranged verbal agreements with a list of labour hire operators, which sourced workers on 417 working holiday visas, mostly from Taiwan and Hong Kong.

Many workers reported they were unable to work unless they rented accommodation from the labour hire contractors and it is alleged rent was illegally deducted from their wages.

In one case, a property purchased in March 2012 for $370,000 was found to be sleeping 21 people who were each paying $100 a week, possibly generating $100,000 a year.

The FWO said the labour hire contractors did not engage with the inquiry and “produced inadequate, inaccurate and/or fabricated records to Inspectors”.

The report notes the means of finding and recruiting workers was also suspect and targeted.

“The overseas workers were primarily recruited by sub-contractors through Chinese newspapers, Facebook or Taiwanese backpacker websites,” the report said.

“The advertisements frequently asked applicants to respond with details of their nationality, height and weight and were potentially discriminatory.”

The FWO found Baiada used a sophisticated system of outsourcing and labour hire deals.

Baiada produces the Lilydale Select and Steggles chicken brands, and is one of Australia’s largest poultry companies with around a 20 per cent market share supplying Coles, Woolworths, McDonald’s and others.

A spokesperson for Baiada said it was “deeply concerned by the reports” of poor treatment of workers at the hands of some contractors.

As of October 2013, the report says, Baiada claimed to have verbal agreements with six principal contractors – B & E Poultry Holdings Pty Ltd, Mushland Pty Ltd, JL Poultry Pty Ltd, VNJ Foods Pty Ltd, Evergreenlee Pty Ltd and Pham Poultry (AUS) Pty Ltd. The agreements were reportedly not written and signed, but relied on trust.

These companies in turn sub-contracted to at least seven other entities, with some further sub-contracting the poultry deals another two or three tiers, involving up to 34 separate entities overall.

The investigation found that Baiada paid its principal contractors per kilogram of poultry processed, rather than on an hourly rate, ignoring bonuses for night shifts, weekends or public holidays.

During the inquiry four of the principal contractors and 17 other sub-contractors stopped trading.

In highly competitive industries that are reliant on productive labour, operators may be creating business models that are based on the exploitation of workers – Fair Work Ombudsman

The FWO Natalie James said the office encountered significant barriers when inquiring into Baiada and other associated contractors, who were largely uncooperative and in some cases entered into voluntary liquidation or were de-registered.

“In a large number of instances where Fair Work inspectors attempted (and persisted in attempting) to engage with contractors, they ceased operations and were quickly replaced with new ‘price takers’ – resulting in suppliers of labour forced into accepting market prices with no powers to negotiate a higher price,” she said.

“It is important to note the actual work and subsequent non-compliance with workplace laws is taking place on premises owned and operated by Baiada. It is therefore the chief beneficiary of work carried out by this labour force.

She said that in highly competitive industries that are reliant on productive labour, operators may be creating business models based on the exploitation of workers.

The FWO report made several recommendations, including that Baiada ensures its subcontractors identify the true employer of workers and identify their name of factory ID cards; that it introduce and electronic time-keeping system to record the working hours of staff; that it set up a formal complaint and resolution process; and that it commission an external specialist to review its practices in recruiting labour.

A spokesperson for the Assistant Minister for Immigration and Border Protection, Michaelia Cash, said the government takes the findings of the FWO report seriously and that its findings show there are strong regulatory bodies in place to pursue illegality in the workplace.

Minister Cash’s office launched Taskforce Cadena in June to tackle allegations of fraud and worker exploitation involving temporary visa holders.

“This inquiry’s outcome demonstrates that the regulator has been actively engaged for some time,” the spokesperson said. “This strong action will be further enhanced by Taskforce Cadena who will for the first time bring together all relevant agencies to stamp out illegal treatment of visa holders.”

“Taskforce Cadena will work with other agencies, including the AFP, ASIC and the ATO, as well as State and Territory Agencies, where necessary, to ensure allegations are appropriately investigated and prosecuted. The Australian Border Force will play a key role in the taskforce’s capabilities.

“The taskforce will perform a number of functions, including intelligence gathering, disruption, enforcement and prosecution.”

In response to the FWO report, Baiada has said following an internal review, the company has either implemented or is in the process of implementing most of the measures recommended in the report.

“Like many businesses across Australia, Baiada uses contract labour for some of its operations,” a spokesperson said. “At all times we expect that those contractors will conduct their activities in accordance with the relevant legal and ethical standards, and in particular workplace laws or requirements.”

“We were deeply concerned by the reports that came to light detailing workers poor treatment at the hands of some contractors.

“We have already responded to the Report’s authors in detail and look forward to meeting them to provide an accurate account of our company’s operations. We agree that it is very important to establish an on-going collaboration on this very important matter and we look forward to engaging with the FWO in the future.”

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