Seasonal workers misled, says Usamate

ONE of the major challenges faced by Fijian workers currently under the Seasonal Workers Program in Australia and New Zealand is the influence from the Fijian diaspora in both countries.

This was revealed by Minister for Employment, Productivity and Industrial Relations Jone Usamate in a ministerial statement in Parliament yesterday.

Mr Usamate said to address these challenges, the ministry was looking at the possibility of appointing a liaison officer in both countries to work in areas where Fijian workers were concentrated.

“Advice given to some of our seasonal workers by our diaspora is incorrect, resulting in our workers being misled to break their employment contracts and get into unnecessary trouble, which negatively affects Fiji’s reputation,” he said.

“When they meet and mix with our workers, many of our diaspora who are New Zealand citizens come with good intentions to assist by providing advice to our workers, however, in many situations, the advice given is incorrect and mislead our workers to break their employment contracts.”

He confirmed a group of Fijian workers were advised by a member of the Fijian diaspora in NZ last year that they could leave their workplace and travel to Auckland to pay for a lawyer to extend their stay in NZ.

“These workers left their workplace in Hastings, traveled to Auckland and each paid $NZ800 ($F1187) to a lawyer to extend their work visa, but this was not successful as they hold limited visa.”

Mr Usamate said the workers returned to Fiji a day before their visa expired and in line with the country’s internal policy, a four-year ban was placed on their village.