The federal agriculture minister says work is underway to crackdown on companies which exploit fruit and vegetable pickers.
A report by The McKell Institute has found backpackers picking blueberries on the North Coast of New South Wales are paid as little as $3 an hour.
The investigation has found many fruit pickers on the Coffs Coast are coerced into doing unpaid work.
The Blueberry Growers Association says the issues identified are largely to do with labour hire companies not farmers.
Agriculture Minister David Littleproud says no worker should be exploited.
“[It’s] disgraceful and it shouldn’t happen, and in fact the federal government is now working with state governments to introduce legislation that would harmonise the regulation – particularly of labour hire companies – and to put some real teeth into penalties for anyone that would exploit workers in agriculture,” Mr Littleproud says.
The Australian Workers Union is calling for a Royal Commission into the issue.
AWU National Secretary Daniel Walton says something has to be done to change the industry, and nothing else has worked so far.
“We’ve gone through academic studies, federal government inquiries, senate inquiries, committee inquiries, we’ve gone through state government inquiries, and the scary thing is the industry and the practices that exist within it are getting worse,” Mr Walton says.