Farm rehires workers exploited by agency

A CRESSY farm at the centre of an alleged foreign worker scam says it took the workers on itself after learning they were being exploited.

Burlington Berries yesterday confirmed it had stopped using a labour contract firm exposed on Monday's A Current Affair for allegedly exploiting foreign workers.

The program spoke to the workers, the majority of whom were Korean and Taiwanese, who said they were getting paid as little as $4 an hour and were forced to sleep in overcrowded accommodation. 

According to the workers, complaints about conditions led to instant dismissal and language barriers made them vulnerable to exploitation. 

Ignorance of  workplace rights was also common among the foreign fruit pickers.

Burlington Berries general manager Nick King said the allegations aired on the program were a wake-up call for the industry. 

``It's nice they brought to our attention that there was something amiss with the labour company so we could look into that and sort out the employees,'' he said.

``We have since ceased with that labour company but all their staff have been directly employed by ourselves.''

He said the 38 employees were happy with the new arrangement. 

A lack of regulation regarding third party labour hire firms, particularly in the horticultural industry, is problematic for agricultural companies.

Mr King said the labour firm in question, itself run by Koreans, provided workers to a number of sites around the state.

``It's an issue across Australia . . . it's a shot across the bow that the agriculture industry needs to keep a vigilant check on third party suppliers,'' he said. 

Australia's workplace watchdog said it had not received any complaints from people working at Burlington Berries. 

The Fair Work Ombudsman said it contacted Burlington Berries and ``at the employer's invitation'' would be conducting inquiries in to its workplace practices. 

 Any worker concerned about being exploited should contact the Fair Work Infoline on 131394 for free advice.

Smartphone
Tablet - Narrow
Tablet - Wide
Desktop