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Pacific worker scheme 'teething problems'

ABC Radio Australia
26 Feb 2009

Tonga's High Commissioner to Australia says he wants closer communication between groups responsible for Pacific Island guest workers.


Fifty Tongans have been temporarily employed as fruit pickers in Australia, the first of more than 2,000 Pacific island farm labourers from Tonga, Vanuatu, Kiribati and Papua New Guinea.

Pacific trade union bodies and their Australian counterparts have expressed concern that the men are being paid casual rates, rather than being treated as full time employees as originally agreed on.

His Royal Highness Crown Prince Tupouto'a Lavaka says problems might have come from different intepretations of the legal language used in the guest worker scheme.

"It's a pilot scheme so we do expect some teething problems but in the longer run I think it should be worked out; there should be some overwatch by both sides," he said.

He says there has probably been a misunderstanding which needs to be resolved.

"Especially of course things get lost over the translation of Tongan to English especially legalistic wordings and such so I'd expect both sides Tonga and Australia to make it a lot easier for the employers and employees and of course to fit in with the laws of Australia."

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