Dispute Blown Out Of Proportion: Minister

Semi Koroilavesau says they are trying their best to try to resolve the case of six Fijians walking away from their seasonal work in Brisbane. The Minister for Employment, Productivity
17 Dec 2015 11:06
Dispute Blown Out Of Proportion: Minister
Fijian workers (from left) Jovesa Maisiri, Losalini Waqa, Eleni Baxter, Fulilagi Malanivosa, Inia Qoli and Marcia Watiri. Photo: Yuri Kouzmin.

Semi Koroilavesau says they are trying their best to try to resolve the case of six Fijians walking away from their seasonal work in Brisbane.

The Minister for Employment, Productivity and Industrial Relations said the incident would have implications on future workers.

The six claimed they were denied medical access, paid AUST$1.20 an hour, abused verbally, under-fed, unable to visit relatives, and stopped from attending church and denied to visit relatives.

“There are plenty of workers there and there are only six of them that have decided to go and live with their relatives,” he said.

“We have been aware of this from like two weeks ago. We have sent a team from the ministry to Australia and they have returned.

“They went with the Australian government’s officials from the Labour and Immigration and found that everything was proper. There are still 114 people working under the same scheme that these six people went on.

“They were the trial group who went across. These six people had walked out from their workplace and stayed with their relatives.”

He said before they had gone to Australia they went through a three- week’s assimilation training and they were introduced to all the conditions of their workplace before they signed the agreement and flew to Australia.

“We sent our team to go and check the complaints they were raising. We sent our deputy secretary of Labour. It is being blown out of proportion.

“We are trying our best to try and resolve the issue because it will have implications on future workers.”

He said the whole issue about the salary was that they had already agreed to the conditions and salary and everything. They inspected the farm that was employing them and found that under the Australian standard the Government was satisfied that it was the right thing that the farmer was giving them.

“For us at the ministry, we have learnt from this incident and we see that the selection process needs to be reviewed again.” he said.

“This is like only 0.05 per cent of the people that are complaining. We will review our selection criteria so that they can do physical work. The work that they do there and their pay basically depends on their performance so it is like performance based pay. The amount of work you actually do is the amount you will be paid.

“We try and massage this because it will affect the future employment of our seasonal workers going to Australia.

“The whole idea of seasonal work is to send them to Australia and work there for six months and save some money.

“It’s physical work, not going to work in the office. They have been tested here in the physical condition.

“When they save enough money they can come back to Fiji and start a small business or build a house. But by looking at this, these people are looking at it as a way to go and visit Australia.

“One of the workers had come back on Monday and we have debriefed him.

“The employers are paying for their airfares, pocket money and other travelling expenses to come back to Fiji.

“We don’t have any issue with them. We just want them to come because their visa condition does not suit the condition on which their visa was issued upon.

“They were all unemployed and were not earning any money in Fiji,” he said.

Edited by Nemani Delaibatiki



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