The Minister for International Development and the Pacific, Alex Hawke, must urgently intervene to stop Pacific Labour Scheme (PLS) workers being exploited by labour hire companies.
A new report has highlighted systematic abuses of the scheme through excessive and unjustified rental costs. For example, in a regional town, nine men working under the Government’s Pacific Labour Scheme are paying $150 a week each ($1,350 total) in rent to live in a four-bedroom house.
One of these men is sleeping on a small lounge.
This is despite the median weekly rent for a four-bedroom house in the town being $340.
These workers’ rents have not been reduced throughout the coronavirus pandemic even though they are working fewer hours.
Their weekly deductions from their gross pay including relocation costs for flights have also continued and have not been reduced.
Labour hire companies are responsible for the contract and arrangements made with the PLS workers.
This scenario is completely unacceptable.
It’s devastating for these workers who have come to Australia to financially support their families back home and boost the Pacific’s economy and undermines the credibility of the PLS in Pacific countries.
The Government claims that all workers under this scheme have the same rights and protections as Australian workers and that workers are supposed to have access to affordable accommodation and living arrangements.
This is clearly not the case here.
The Morrison Government must work with PLS labour hire companies and crack down on the outrageous rental rorts that are undermining this important element of Australia’s Pacific Step Up policy.