Lockyer Valley farms raided over worker exploitation claims

FARM WORK: Backpackers work on a farm on the Mt Perry Gin Gin Road near Bundaberg.Photo: Max Fleet / NewsMail
FARM WORK: Backpackers work on a farm on the Mt Perry Gin Gin Road near Bundaberg.Photo: Max Fleet / NewsMail Max Fleet BUN290813RUR1

POLICE and government agencies have raided Lockyer Valley farms over allegations of workers being ripped off.

The police combined with the Fair Work Ombudsman and Queensland Workplace Health and Safety in a multi-agency compliance operation.

The operation followed a tip-off from within the farming industry.

The allegations included potential underpayment of wages; workers being provided unsafe and very poor accommodation, unsafe drinking water and unregistered transport; and workers being charged job-find fees.

The team conducted unannounced visits to four vegetable farms over two days the Fair Work Ombudsman and has started a number of investigations into potential breaches by several contractors.

Fair Work Ombudsman Natalie James said it was encouraging to see businesses taking a proactive interest in ensuring compliance within the horticulture sector.

"The fact that the industry itself is willing to bring forward allegations of suspected non-compliance is a positive sign,” Ms James said.

"Over a number of years my agency has undertaken activities aimed at shining a light on the dodgy labour practices and it is pleasing to see the industry take steps to stamp out these insidious practices.

"It is blatantly unfair for workers and it is unfair for responsible operators that are doing the right thing to have to compete with those who base their business models on unlawful activities.

"It sends a strong message to crooked operators that we are on the case and will use our powers to enforce the law and disrupt their unlawful activities.”

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