McKell Institute Berry Report Author Says Council and MPs Must take a Stand on Wage Theft and Exploitation

Mr Edward Cavanough said Coffs Harbour’s berry industry is an ecosystem that capitalises on the plight of holiday workers in the area.


EDWARD Cavanough, lead author on The McKell Institute Report (Blue Harvest Wage theft & other labour infringements in the NSW Mid-North Coast’s 2019/20 berry harvest), is calling on Coffs Harbour City Council, businesses and local state and federal MPs to take a public stand against wage theft and exploitation in Coffs Harbour blueberry farms.

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Mr Cavanough said, “It is important that communities acknowledge what is going on and effectively commit to stamping it out in Coffs and surrounds.

“It tarnishes the reputation of the area and horticulture in general,” he told News Of The Area.

“It is a big driver of the local economy and it is a viable and a well respected industry and should not be associated with wage exploitation and dodgy practices which we have identified,” he said.

The McKell Institute Report by Edward Cavanough and Connor Wherrett released this month details underpayment, wage theft and economic injustice from labour hire companies across blueberry farms in our region focussing on Working Holiday Makers and migrant workers.

The report, which has gained national attention, calls for a Royal Commission into the Exploitation and Underpayment of Migrant Workers in Australia.

The authors also call for strict labour hire licensing, far stronger penalties and Mr Cavanough noted Scott Morrison has floated to criminalise wage theft.

The report states: “Unfortunately, Australia’s labour hire industry is poorly regulated, and a minority of labour hire firms are known to engage in unlawful activity such as illegal phoenixing, where an individual will create a ‘new company to continue the business of an existing company that has been deliberately liquidated to avoid paying outstanding debts, including employee entitlements’”.

Mr Cavanough said people need to make a stand and let their voices be heard.

“Coffs Harbour Council needs to say ‘enough is enough’.”

“The local Member of Parliament Gurmesh Singh has a unique role to play as community leaders by recognising the problem and using his platform to say enough is enough to parliament.

“As should Kevin Hogan and Pat Conaghan,” Mr Cavanough told News Of The Area.

“Anyone in any position of public leadership should make it known that they want to rid the area of this type of exploitation.”


By Sandra MOON


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