Contractor and Agent breach Seasonal Employment Act

Seasonal Work Contractor Powerpac and its agent in Vanuatu Hamy Boe have breached chapter 21 of the Seasonal Employment Act.

Information obtained by YTS News shows that Vanuatu workers sent to work in the seasonal employment scheme by Vanuatu Agent Hamy Boe have not been provided a copy of the contract at the time of signing as required by the Seasonal Employment Act.

Chapter 21 of the Seasonal Employment Act states “(1) A seasonal employment agreement must be in writing.”

The Seasonal Employment Act also requires the licensee or permit holder must: (a) ensure that a person understands the content of the person’s seasonal employment agreement before the person signs the agreement; and (b) advise a person that he or she is entitled to get independent legal advice about the seasonal employment agreement at the person’s cost.

Vanuatu Workers that were contracted by Powerpac never had the opportunity to read through the contents of their contracts despite the requirements by law.

Workers say their signatures were taken digitally in Vanuatu then added to the contracts and later printed and provided in Australia.

The workers were not provided a “written” agreement and never had the opportunity to review the contracts.

The Seasonal Employment Act also allows the Labour Commissioner to “respond to complaints from any person concerning any activity which contravenes this Act or the regulations and, if appropriate, refer the matter to the Vanuatu Police.”

It is unethical to digitally add signatures to contracts as whatever agents or contractors put into a contract can be legally binding once the signatures are added.

The practice by some agents to not provide workers contract copies is becoming normal in Vanuatu however the Vanuatu Government through the labor department is urged to clamp down on the practice.

The contract issue in Vanuatu could be seen as another form of exploitation as workers are not given the opportunity nor the right to read their contracts during the signing.

Most recently the Australian Workers Union is calling on the Australian Government to take more action against the exploitation of seasonal workers following “one of the biggest cases of exploitation we have seen” on the North-West.