Union unhappy at prisoner cane clean-up proposal

THE Australian Workers' Union is unhappy about a plan to use prisoners to help with the cane harvest after the January flood.

A statement from the AWU said the union was "extremely concerned" that cane growers' organisations were lobbying for the use of prisoners as labour on cane farms.

Canegrowers Isis manager Wayne Stanley said last week that workers were needed to identify and help remove debris washed on to the cane paddocks by floodwaters.

Mr Stanley said prisoners, who had already been used to help out in the Maryborough area, were not the first option under consideration.

But if prisoners were needed they would be considered.

Do you think prisoners should work on cane fields in Bundaberg?

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Prisoners were used to help clean up parts of Bundaberg immediately after the flood.

AWU state secretary Ben Swan said the interests of the community and workers' safety should be put first and the plan to use prisoners during the harvest should be ruled out by Canegrowers Isis and the State Government.

"We only have to look to the bungled boot camp in Far North Queensland to see how very wrong this whole situation could become," Mr Swan said.

"The community and workers just can't have confidence that there will be sufficient safeguards judging by this government's past attempts.

"The government really needs to get on top of issues concerning prisoner security in the community before they start letting prisoners walk around in six-foot high cane under minimal surveillance."

AWU central district secretary Keith Ballin said he understood cane growers were having difficulty with their harvest following the floods earlier this year, but another solution needed to be found.

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