Seasonal work agents on notice

The Vanuatu Government says it is giving seasonal worker agents until the end of this year, to prove they can undertake their duties in a fair and transparent way.

The Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Internal Affairs, Ismael Kalsakau, says the decision to put the agents on notice was made at a Council of Ministers meeting on Malekula last year.

In October 2020, Mr Kalsakau announced the council had decided the Government should take over the agents’ roles to ensure fairness and better distribution of revenue.
Minister Kalsakau says that decision was based on numerous complaints from seasonal workers about some agents’ fees being too high and their recruitment practices being unfair.

“I want to give this opportunity to the agents to prove to the government, they are not stealing from the people and that their selection processes are fair and transparent,” Mr Kalsakau said.

“Many agents in the country are doing a great job.

“If they can prove that they are not stealing from workers and that the two parties are happy, I can ask the Council of Ministers to reconsider its earlier decision.”

Many agents disagreed with the Government’s 2020 decision to do its own recruitment of seasonal workers to work in New Zealand and Australia.

They claim they have been doing a fair job and argue, because they deal directly with farmers, that they know which applicants are suited to working on overseas farms.

Minister Kalsakau says any Government involvement in Vanuatu’s labour mobility schemes will benefit all parties.

“The Government needs to be more involved in the operation of these schemes to clear up many issues.”

He says the seasonal worker schemes are an important part of Vanuatu’s economy and are “a good opportunity” many people want to take up to earn money to their families.

“The Labour Department has registered more than 2000 workers in [Australia’s] Pacific Labour Mobility Scheme,” he says.

“These workers need to be confident that they have been chosen to work abroad not because they voted for a certain person but because they are a suitable Ni-Vanuatu.

“The Labour Department is currently setting up a unit to manage a database for seasonal workers.

“This is the way forward and I am proud of the good work that the Department of Labour is doing in this field.”

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