Australia: Australian fruit picking exploitation claims prompt push on protections against ‘modern slavery’

Potential increased worker exploitation due to the coronavirus pandemic has been categorised as modern slavery, prompting further calls for better protection for vulnerable workers.

In South Australia’s Riverland region some workers have allegedly earned as little as $8 to $10 an hour picking fruit in recent months, according to Flinders University associate professor of law Marinella Marmo.

Dr Marmo released a report into slavery and slavery-like practices in South Australia in late 2019, and found one in three workers were not legitimately employed on some Riverland properties.

The report also detailed cases of international workers expected to “perform sexual favours” to receive more work hours, having passports confiscated, and workers feeling they were not free to leave.

Dr Marmo said she was worried more cases of worker exploitation were occurring now, as the balance of power between employer and employee had widened during the pandemic.

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