Malaysians working in Aussie farms trapped in black market, says report

Malaysians were willing to work in farms and factories in Australia to counter economic decline back home, but end up caught in a labour black market run by "unscrupulous" companies, an inquiry into illegal labour was told. The Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) reported today that Aira Firdaus told the inquiry that victims were not speaking out against the exploitation of serious underpayment, visa abuse and job insecurity out of fear. Aira, a witness for the National Union of Workers in the Victorian government inquiry on the matter, said many arrived in Australia "just to work and did not want to have anything to do with any other issues." "So they put themselves in a position where they're really vulnerable, which gives an advantage for the contractor to abuse them," she said. She added that the problem was happening across Australia and not just in Victoria. The ABC report said the Victorian government's inquiry was investigating dodgy labour hire contractors, visa abuse and the effects of insecure work. In giving evidence at the inquiry in Morwell, Aira said job offers were being advertised online on backpacker blogs and through social media sites including Facebook and Instagram. She told the inquiry the interest among Malaysians was high despite the pay advertised being only A$10 to A$13 per hour (RM30 to RM39) below the Australian minimum wage, which is A$21 (RM63). The report said the work offer was up to 12 hours a day, six to seven days a week and largely in the horticulture and poultry industry. Workers were also charged some A$90 (RM270) per week for housing and A$40 (RM120) per week for transportation to the farm. The report also stated that the inquiry is due to report its findings to the Victorian government by July 31. – March 2, 2016.