Several major employers in Australia who are recruiting under the Pacific Labour Scheme (PLS) have already threatened to pull out from recruiting workers from Vanuatu, due to ongoing issues of workers absconding from their farms.
They have indicated that they will recruit workers from Samoa and Solomon Islands.
This was revealed by Commissioner of Labour (COL), Murielle Meltenoven, who is worried this could have a huge impact on the program.
The Commissioner said workers cannot just run away from their employers and decide to work with another employer, because they have a valid contract only with their official employer. As soon as workers abscond, their visas will be terminated by their employers.
“Once the workers abscond, their employers could terminate their contracts and visas, and automatically, the workers become illegal immigrants in Australia,” Meltenoven explained.
She emphasised on the consequence of their actions. Workers will not be able to return to Australia.
Meltenoven said if workers have welfare issues, for instance, they are not satisfied with their working conditions, they can contact their agents and the Department of Labour through the Employment Service Unit.
“Resorting to absconding is not encouraged,” she said.
While she agreed that the welfare issues could be legal to address under the law, she urged the workers to seek advice and assistance or support from the relevant authorities. The Labour boss further confirmed her office is working with Australian government to address some of these welfare issues.
She also mentioned that so far, some employers have also indicated that they will not recruit anyone who is related to workers that have absconded.
They even stated that they will not accept workers from the same island of origin as the absconders.
Commissioner Meltenoven stressed that if workers continue to abscond, its impact on the program will be huge. The number of workers going to work in Australia will decrease, and unemployment issues in the country will rise.
She appealed to the workers to consider the impacts of their actions, before they run away from their employers.