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Migrant worker ‘ate from rubbish bins’ to survive as rampant fruit picking underpayment revealed

A Taiwanese foreign worker says she was exposed to such horrific underpayment rates on an Australian farm she was forced to eat from public rubbish bins just to survive.

Kate Hsu said she was paid just $4 an hour picking oranges on a South Australian farm as the alarming rates of wage theft and exploitation were revealed in a new report.

The study found an alarming majority of fruit and vegetable pickers in Australia were victims of wage theft, with nearly 80 percent of 1300 horticulture industry workers reporting experiences of underpayment.

The survey, conducted by Unions NSW and the Migrant Workers Centre in Victoria, was the latest to expose the inhumane treatment of the workforce, which was accused of systematically exploiting vulnerable overseas workers on temporary visas. Ms. Hsu told the NCA NewsWire she was a victim of the payment structure known as ‘piece rate’, where workers were paid by the quantity of fruit or vegetables they picked during a shift.

“I was paid, at the lowest, $4 per hour,” she said through an interpreter about her experience picking fruit in Renmark, SA. “I went dumpster diving to find food in recycling bins at supermarkets when I didn’t have enough money.” Unfortunately, according to the survey, Kate’s story is too familiar, which found that most piece-rate workers were underpaid, with some receiving as little as $1 an hour and only 2 percent paid a legitimate rate of $26 an hour. The lowest daily wages were reported by piece-rate workers employed on grape and zucchini farms, earning on average $9 per day, followed by blueberry farm workers who averaged $10 per day.

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