Monica Boin and Blaine Allison are WOOFA workers on the Krishna Village farm. Photo: John Gass / Tweed Daily News
Monica Boin and Blaine Allison are WOOFA workers on the Krishna Village farm. Photo: John Gass / Tweed Daily News John Gass

WWOOFer cull bites deep on farmers

TWEED organic farmers who host unpaid foreign workers in return for food and accommodation, have slammed the scrapping of second year holiday working visas.

Exploitation fears aired during a recent ABC current affairs program have spurred the move by Immigration's Assistant Minister Michaelia Cash.

But some Tweed farms, which rely on these workers, say they are already treated fairly.

Sylva Lining Organics in Eungella hosts up to three WWOOFers (Willing Workers On Organic Farms) at a time.

Its director, Ian Willis, said based on his extensive government policy background, the new legislation "has completely missed the target" and will see the "culling" of the workers.

"Backpackers will be disadvantaged and they have nothing whatsoever to do with companies that bring in foreign workers and exploit them.

"This is another cost on businesses; another legislative stuff-up. I will pay the WWOOFers, and I will charge them for accommodation, and all that extra paperwork will go around for nothing."

The Krishna's Eungella farm is one of the five biggest volunteer hosts in the state, has 35 WWOOFers, with another 40 arriving over the next six months.

"Our volunteers, and we ourselves, are shocked about the short-sightedness of this decision," Krishna Village's Herike Schreer said.

"Whilst we can't pay them, we provide daily free yoga, classes about spiritual topics, (and) weekly life coaching classes," Ms Schreer said.

"People often stay longer than planned and love the exchange they are getting."

Conversely, she believes a new visa requirement forcing WWOOFers to work 88 days in paid factory farms, will "breed" exploitation.

"With more visa applicants competing for less jobs - a breeding ground for exploitation," Ms Schreer said.

She said exploitation could be curtailed with Fair Work-style regulation.

"If I'm being molested or forced to work ridiculous hours, a minimum wage will not help me."

Garry Ainsworth, executive director of WWOOF Australia, said aging, financially struggling farmers will be adversely affected.



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