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Exploiters of backpackers be warned, Carey is coming for you

Fair Work Ombudsman Overseas Workers Team director Carey Trundle says overseas workers have rights too.
Fair Work Ombudsman Overseas Workers Team director Carey Trundle says overseas workers have rights too. Patrick Woods

CAREY Trundle takes her work seriously, sticking up for the employment rights of young overseas visitors.

And she says employers would be well advised to take these rights seriously too.

Ms Trundle is director of the Fair Work Ombudsman's Overseas Workers' Team, in Gympie this week looking mainly at backpacker employment.

She says employers and overseas employees alike need to know the rules.

"As a regulator we monitor and enforce workplace laws, but also educate the community about workplace rights and obligations.

"The Fair Work Ombudsman is currently running education and compliance activities aimed at protecting the rights of overseas and seasonal workers and ensuring employers, hostel owners and labour-hire operators understand and comply with workplace laws.

"A three-year 'harvest trail' inquiry is also reviewing compliance within the fruit and vegetable growing industry across Australia," she said.

Her visit is part of an inquiry into wages and conditions of workers on 417 working holiday visas, which allow people under 30 to holiday and work in Australia for up to two years.

She said 183,428 working holiday visas were granted in Australia last financial year, as well as 49,950 visas for a second year of work.

In the first nine months of this financial year, the Fair Work Ombudsman had recouped a total of $385,567 for 138 underpaid 417 visa holders who approached the agency for help, she said.

The team is investigating claims of underpayment, non-payment, employees paying for help with visa extensions and exploitation in exchange for housing.

Almost a quarter of calls for help come from employees in accommodation and food services sector, followed by agriculture, forestry and fishing.

Errant employers have been fined up to $343,860 for breaches.

For help, phone 13 13 94 or, for an interpreter, 13 14 50.

Topics:  backpackers fair work ombudsman seasonal work

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