Being the ethical business we are and you being the ethical consumers we admire, we wanted to share our thoughts on the Four Corners program, ‘Slaving Away’ which premiered on 4th May 2015.
For those of you who haven’t had a chance to watch it yet, this episode tackled the issues regarding widespread exploitation of migrant workers by labour hire companies within Australia’s Food Industry. While Australian citizens are paid award wages or above, labour hire companies supply migrant workers to businesses and not only skim off the top the workers pay, but also place them in poor and unsafe working environments, sometimes with working hours of up to 20 hours per day.
Being a migrant myself, I shared similar experiences as the migrant workers in this interview and have come across exploitation of migrants within other industries as well. In saying that, I am European and our cultures and freedoms are not so different to those of Australia. We listened to a lot of Bob Marley and are brought up with the idea of fighting for our rights like the British holiday workers Milly and Katie in this program. However, some of our Australian guests will have come from countries where some of these rights may not always be exercised or understood. So when they do arrive in Australia seeking opportunities, they don’t know what to expect and because of the language barrier, trust their fellow countrymen to guide them in the right direction.
It is very sad to see all this! Though I also feel somewhat more optimistic now that this is in public eye and being discussed. With Four Corners leading the investigation of these poor practices, a topic that is dear to my heart and that of the Ooooby Crew, we trust things will begin changing for the better.
We know that farming is hard work and we as consumers are influenced heavily by appearance and low prices of produce which often force farmers to cut labour costs. Ooooby farmers are small to medium sized operations and cut labour costs through creative means like WWOOF’ers (Willing Workers On Organic Farms – www.wwoof.com.au) as well as through alliances with government bodies such as Centrelink, who offer subsidies for wages.
We keep a close relationship with our farmers and therefore trust that their ethical practices are maintained. As far as we are aware, none of the farmers we are working with are involved in practices such as the ones mentioned in this Four Corners episode. We would love to go and check on every farm thoroughly and we appreciate that you understand that as a small business we are doing the best we can. We fully support the formation of a government task force and would appreciate their support in making sure all our food has been produced ethically and legally, in addition to the other requirements we ask of our farmers.
We promise to be always fully transparent about our operations and each week when you receive your boxes we tell you who produced your food, as well as their growing methods, certified or uncertified organic. Subsequently we give you the ability to connect and contact our growers yourself should you ever wish to speak in person. I’ve attached a list of our growers to date below; please do not hesitate to contact us should you need any further information.
It really is up to us consumers to fix what is happening. Government bodies can always step in to bring people who do wrong behind bars, but we actually have the opportunity of stopping new people stepping into their place, simply by choosing where to spend our money. Not only is this important for the reasons shown in the Four Corners investigation, it is also important because our farmers should earn the money they deserve. By selecting by price and appearance primarily, we are not only receiving less nutritious food and sacrificing our health but we are also indirectly encouraging unethical treatments such as those presented in this report.
Thank you for being part of the solution, your choices are making a difference as we work to rebuilding our local food system.