Australia’s meat processing and agricultural industries are employing an increasing number of temporary workers on the PALM Visa scheme from Pacific Island nations and Timor-Leste.
PALM visa holders are permitted to work in occupations classified as low-skilled, semi-skilled or unskilled, and the majority work in agriculture or meat processing. PALM visa applicants are sponsored by an ‘Approved Employer’ who is entitled to make wage deductions for costs including travel, accommodation and visa processing fees.
Workers must obtain written permission to leave their Approved Employer and switch between Approved Employers. These conditions, coupled with problems ensuring the enforcement of minimum wages and the provision of enough working hours to earn a decent wage, have led to reports of underpayment, and of people on PALM visas running away from their Approved Employer.
The conditions of the visa, coupled with long-standing issues with the agricultural sector (in which most PALM workers are employed), make it essential to ensure that PALM workers are given proper working rights and that these rights are protected.
This paper calculates the size of the PALM visa program and discusses what is necessary to reduce the exploitation of temporary workers involved.