Union says workers must understand contract

The Senior Organiser of Samoa First Union, Saina Tomi, says the situation faced by Samoan seasonal workers in Australia is regrettable.

Mrs. Tomi offered her opinion after an Australian Broadcasting Corporation (A.B.C) report showed the poor living conditions for Samoan and other Pacific nationals who are in parts of Australia for the Pacific Labour Scheme.

Mrs. Tomi said that before seasonal workers leave the country, they have to understand every single part of their contract, especially their accommodation, transportation and rights as a worker in Australia.

A total of nine workers revealed their exploitation to the A.B.C many anonymously for fear of repercussions.

A.B.C reported that $150 each member of the group pays every week for the rent is nearly a quarter of their wage with the weekly rent being $1,350.

The median rent for a four-bedroom house in Inverell (where the nine Samoans are currently staying) is $430 according to advertisements cited by the A.B.C.

Mrs. Tomi stated that these workers are paying way too much and explained that the pre-departure workshop for seasonal workers is very important and also for the arrangement of the seasonal workers contracts.

"They have to understand," Mrs. Tomi said in an interview with Samoa Observer.

She had shared an example of a colleague that came from Australia stating that the contract they received in Australia is different from the one in Samoa. Mrs. Tomi further explained that most of the workers are unaware of what is in the contract when she questioned them about it.

"That's what I experience from some of the seasonal workers that came here. Whoever is dealing with the seasonal workers outside, especially in Australia, including those boys, they have to reach out and read the lines of those contracts," she said.

Accommodation is one of the many problems the seasonal workers are currently facing and Mrs. Tomi said that another major problem these people are facing is the transportation fee of $50 a week each which is a problem 32 seasonal workers she worked with had faced.

"$50 is a huge amount of money. After that, there is a health and safety issue so its a lot," she said.

"The main reason a Samoan left our country is to get money to help the family."

According to her, it is very important for seasonal workers to join a union.

"If they join union, the benefit is that they have good accommodations. They have to join the union because they don't understand the whole employment rights in Australia but if they join the union, the union can fight for them," she said.

"I don't think that is the only issue that they are facing right now. There are a lot of issues that they are facing but they never say anything about that."

She further stated that our Government provides opportunities for Samoans but they should also provide a well explained pre-departure workshop for all the seasonal workers. 

"Not only to discipline their way of living there but how to adapt with the work there in Australia because it is totally different," she said.

Mrs. Tomi expressed that these workers have rights and she thinks that their rights are being abused.

She had noticed the issue of Samoan seasonal workers of not speaking up of any issues when she had visited a group recently. Mrs. Tomi explained that when the Australian Union had visited a few workers, none had spoken up about their problems.

They had only started to voice out their issues when a Samoan was present.

"Our Samoan people only talk when there are Samoans. When I go there, they have a lot of things to say to me and the organisers were shocked because they went there five times and no one spoke," she said.

Mrs. Tomi stated that the issue is something that we need to look into to make sure our seasonal workers are looked after, not only physically but also mentally. 

"They have to know their rights. The only reason why we leave our homes is that we need to support our families here," she added.

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