Migrant workers take a stand against gendered workplace violence

Published: 21/02/2024
Category: Industrial Relations
Published: 21/02/2024
Category: Industrial Relations

We do not want any woman to face gendered harassment, assault or violence ever again. There is a big struggle, and we hope that our case can play a big role.

Perfection Fresh workers

These are the powerful words of ‘Perfection 12’: 12 migrant women workers who are suing Perfection Fresh, their employer, for failing to provide a safe working environment.

These women, who work for one of Australia’s largest fruit and vegetable growers, are members of the United Workers Union, and have taken their claims all the way to the Federal Court – the biggest case of its kind in Australia.

Migrant workers standing up for their workplace rights

Sexual Harassment is never acceptable. Workers should expect their employer to take responsibility for a safe and respectful workplace.

Too often, women’s voices have gone unheard. The bravery that these workers are showing is extraordinary.

In an industry like horticulture and farming, which relies heavily on employing migrant workers, the power imbalance is stacked against the workers, especially considering that many migrant workers are employed through the Pacific Australia Labour Mobility (PALM) program, and their residency in Australia relies on their continued employment.

These union members are shining the spotlight on the gendered workplace violence that happens to women working in fields, glasshouse, factories and warehouses; giving hope to a future of women coming to work in Australia on the PALM program, and women everywhere around the world, to be paid well for the work they do, be safe and respected at all times and never be afraid at work.

Allegations of sexual harassment surface

The Perfection Fresh workers allege that two men in positions of authority at the South Australia glasshouse north of Adelaide used their power repeatedly to make unwanted sexual advances and requests for sexual favours.

The women have told the Federal Court that the men’s actions contravene the Sex Discrimination Act, and that the company should be liable as it failed to take action when complaints were made, or implement policies to prevent the sexual harassment from taking place.

The company’s response so far has been to deny accountability and claim they are not responsible for the conduct of the two male employees in question.

Since the Perfection 12 lodged their sexual assault case, both current and former workers have come forward with their own stories of a toxic work environment at Perfection Fresh.

Fundamental right to a safe workplace

For the 12 workers bringing the allegation, their concerns go beyond sexual harassment.

They want to see the 10,000 Perfection Fresh workers achieve greater job security, and receive easy access to union membership when they start work.

Systematic exploitation of migrant workers is widespread, which is why these women are pushing for change from the top.

Leading the way for women migrant workers

United Workers Union farm sector executive director, Caterina Cinanni, has spoken about how this is one of the biggest cases against workplace sexual harassment and assault ever brought before the Federal Court.

But the Perfection 12 are not alone: the union movement is standing in solidarity with the twelve women as they lead the way to a world where employers take their obligations to provide safe workplaces for their employers more seriously.

If you’re someone who believes that every worker has the right to a safe workplace, then it’s time to join your union and fight for it.

Show your support for Perfection 12

Migrant workers take a stand against gendered workplace violence

Migrant workers take a stand against gendered workplace violence