- The Guardian
- Issue #2057
Photo: Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade – flickr.com (CC BY 2.0)
The Australian Workers’ Union (AWU) has welcomed a suite of major changes to the Pacific Australia Labour Mobility (PALM) scheme which should provide much-needed protections and support for PALM workers.
Key improvements include a minimum of 30 hours of work per week and a minimum weekly take-home pay of $200 after deductions – meaning that no worker will have less than $200 in hand after deductions to pay off airfares, accommodation and expenses. Additionally, the revisions promise pay parity with domestic workers and make inductions mandatory for all workers.
“The AWU has been campaigning long and hard for improvements to the PALM visa scheme and I am very pleased to see the changes announced today,” said AWU National Secretary Daniel Walton.
“These are not minor adjustments but significant wins for both the AWU and the workers we represent. They provide much-needed safeguards, regular income, and will help ensure the dignified treatment of farm workers.
“For many years now we have battled the business lobby and the National Party who have tried to sweep the mistreatment of PALM workers under the rug. I am very pleased we now have an Agriculture Minister who is more interested in cleaning up than covering up. Australia does not need to mistreat our guests from the Pacific in order to have thriving and profitable agriculture and horticulture sectors.
“Our international reputation has been tarnished for too long. We should never lose sight of the fact that the PALM scheme is not just about filling labour shortage gaps, but also about strengthening ties with our neighbours. That can only happen if the people who come here to work are treated respectfully and fairly.”
However, Walton cautioned that while the new rules are welcome, their impact will depend on robust enforcement.
“These rules will only be as effective as their enforcement. It is our collective responsibility to ensure these changes are more than words on paper. They must bring about a real difference in the everyday lives of the people we represent,” Walton said.
The scheme will now include an accommodation and transport safety net for workers offered less than 20 hours of work per week.