Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Money biggest lure for Malaysians labouring in Aussie farms

Malaysians are willing to work as farm workers in Australia, say local agents who organise such trips, because the money is good. Local agents who help Malaysian travellers find temporary jobs as fruit pickers and sorters said such jobs were popular because of the high pay, which can be up to AU$13 (RM39) per hour. Izwan, an agent based in Shah Alam, said he has sent around 300 to 500 Malaysians to Australia since he started working as an agent 2½ years ago. "In a month, between 10 and 20 people would go to Australia to work as farm workers," he said, adding that the main reason was money.  He said agents in Malaysia would deal with contractors in Australia, who would find the jobs, accommodation and transport for the newcomers. Some contractors are also Malaysians who will deal with farmers on matters, such as the number of workers needed. "In a month, you can earn an average of between RM6,000 and RM12,000. But it all depends on how hard you work," Izwan told The Malaysian Insider. He said on some farms, which had between 100 and 200 workers, about 70% to 80% were Malaysians. Such "working holidays" have been popular for some time but returned to the media spotlight because of an ongoing inquiry into illegal labour on Australian farms using foreign travellers as labourers. Australian media yesterday reported on the inquiry held in Victoria, in which Malaysian Aira Firdaus testified as a witness for the National Union of Workers. The inquiry is looking into labour companies which are openly advertising for illegal and underpaid workers at farms and factories in the Australian state, targeting international backpackers. There has been high interest among Malaysians despite the pay being only A$10 to A$13 per hour, which is below the Australian minimum wage at A$21. These working tourists reportedly work for up to 12 hours a day for six to seven days a week. Additionally, they are also charged housing and transport to the farms and back to their accommodation. Aira was reported telling the inquiry that the operation was like a "labour black market" run by "unscrupulous" companies and many were not speaking out over the underpayment, visa abuse and job insecurity out of fear. Izwan said the trend to take up temporary farm work in Australia was started by Malaysian Chinese, who went over there almost 30 years ago. Another agent known as Azmi said Malaysians who took up such jobs often had financial burdens back home and urgent debts to repay. "Because of money, they do farming work despite having no experience in farming. It is seen as the only way for them to earn more money in a short time to settle their debts. "Besides working as fruits pickers, they also will do part-time work, such as working in fast food restaurants, delivering newspapers and other odd jobs," Azmi said. Other types of travellers included professionals who wanted to earn extra money on a break, as well as young adults who wanted a different life experience. "Most of them have jobs in Malaysia, but they don't have enough money," another agent who only wanted to be known as Aidil said. Aidil said some travellers who opted for farm jobs would overstay their visas in Australia despite reminders about the risks, which include a three-year ban from entering the country if they were caught, as well as deportation. "We do not encourage them to overstay but since we do not hold their passports, they are the ones who decide to overstay." – March 3, 2016.]]>

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