A major Australian company involved in the recruitment of Solomon Islanders under the Australia Pacific Labour Mobility (PALM) Scheme has raised concerns over the use of Betel- nut by workers under its establishments.
This concern was shared to officials from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and External Trade by a team from JBS Primo who are in Honiara this week to conduct interviews for more workers to join around more than 400 Solomon Islanders who are already with the company.
JBS Australia Palm Coordinator, Faamita Faalava said a number of concerns have been raised in relation to hygiene issues in the work place and accommodations when local workers have access to betel nut in Australia.
“I think from a business perspective, we really need to address this issue especially for potential team members that we will be recruiting,” She added.
Ms Faalava has recently encountered incident with betel-nut, when a Solomon Islands worker under her mobilization caused a delay upon arrival and subsequently was issued a fine for bringing betel-nut to Australia.
With growing concerns, the company is looking at avenues to stop potential workers who continue to practice the habit of chewing betel-nut.
“I’m not sure if it’s illegal bringing it to Australia, but we want to try and stamp it out from our workplace and even in accommodations because we are getting a lot of concerns raised.
Ms Faalava reiterates that as a Company, JBS is in love with the Solomon Islands and even offered salary contracts to its workers to show how it appreciates its team members.
“It is that part with the betel-nut habit that is a bit of an issue.
Among possible measures mentioned is, JBS will be looking to include the issue in their employment clauses so workers fully understand that if they are not complying to company policies and procedures then they are not meant to be part of the team.
“We hope that this should send a message, that is, we want to do the right thing, and we want them to be good ambassadors for your country, as reputation is everything.
Trade Commissioner of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and External Trade, Barrett Salato acknowledged JBS for clearly stating their policy on the matter.
He adviced that although it is not illegal to bring betel-nut to Australia, the government would like to address the matter here in the Solomon Islands before it finds its way to Australia.
The Trade Commissioner said talks have been held with the Customs Division within the Ministry of Commerce, Industry, Labour and Immigration (MCILI) on ways to stop PALM workers from getting betel-nut from the Solomon Islands to Australia.
He assured JBS that the Labour Mobility Unit (LMU) and its partners would reiterate the company’s policy on betel-nut to local workers who travel to work with JBS and its group of companies.
JBS is Australia’s largest meat and food processing company. This week they are in the Solomon Islands to interview around 120 potential Solomon Islands workers to select a total of 60-80 workers.
The workers will be employed under one of JBS subsidiary companies, Primo which is Australia’s largest manufacturer of ham, bacon, salami and deli meats, supplying quality smallgoods to major retail groups across Australia.
—MFAET PRESS RELEASE