list of complaints from Volunteer workers between 2016/2018

M Z made this Freedom of Information request to Fair Work Ombudsman

The request was partially successful.

From: M Z

Delivered

Dear Fair Work Ombudsman,

Could you please send through the latest documents that include, a list of complaints from people who worked as volunteers in Australian farms, hotels, or yoga retreats in exchange for free food and accomodation, received in 2016, 2017 and 2018.

If possible, please treat this as an administrative/ informal request. Otherwise please proceed with my request as a formal information request under the Act.

Yours faithfully,

Ludmila Zie

Yours faithfully,

M Z

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From: FWO - FOI Requests
Fair Work Ombudsman

UNCLASSIFIED

Thank you for your email.

 

I confirm that the Fair Work Ombudsman (FWO) have received your FOI
request on 4 June 2018.  Your request shall be processed in accordance
with FWO’s [1]Information Access Policy.

 

A member of the FWO’s Customer Feedback and Information Access Team will
contact you confirm the scope of your request.

 

In the interim, any questions can be directed to [FWO request email]. The
reference number to your request is FOI-907.

 

Kind regards

Jennifer

 

Jennifer Wockner | Customer Feedback and Information Access Officer

Fair Work Ombudsman

 

 

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From: FWO - FOI Requests
Fair Work Ombudsman

UNCLASSIFIED
Dear Ms Zie

I acknowledge receipt of your request to the Fair Work Ombudsman (FWO), received on 4 June 2018. You have requested: ‘the latest documents that include, a list of complaints from people who worked as volunteers in Australian farms, hotels, or yoga retreats in exchange for free food and accommodation, received in 2016, 2017 and 2018’.

There are a number of issues with processing your request in its current form. Because of the issues raised below, we would like to consult with you further to consider ways to explore how the FWO can identify and consider for release the information you are seeking.

I note that your request to treat this as an administrative/informal request. The FWO processes information access requests in accordance with the Freedom of Information Act 1982 (FOI Act) and our Information Access Policy (IAP). Once the request scope is confirmed, we will consider whether we can release the information to you discretionally in accordance with our IAP. Further information about the processing of our requests for information is available on the ‘Accessing our Information’ page of our website.

Firstly, as you may be aware, the FWO’s website includes information about Unpaid Work. There are also two reports drafted or commissioned by the FWO relevant to this issue: the 2016 Inquiry into the wages and conditions of people working under the 417 Work Holiday Visa Program (the 417 Visa Inquiry Report), and the 2012 report completed by the Adelaide Law School into The Nature, Prevalence and Regulation of Unpaid Work Experience, Internships and Trial Periods in Australia: Experience or Exploitation. I would especially encourage you to review the 417 Visa Inquiry Report, as it discusses some of the issues arising from unpaid/volunteer work in exchange for non-monetary benefits amongst visa-holders within a number of industries, including the agriculture industry.

Regarding your request, under section 15(2)(b) of the FOI Act, we require enough information as is reasonably necessary to enable our officers to identify the documents sought. I consider there are presently a number of issues arising from your request scope before we can begin processing it. While the FWO likely holds some documents relating to unpaid work on farms, yoga retreats or hotels in exchange for food and accommodation, it is expected that identifying these documents will be very difficult. I have outlined some of the reasons for this below.

Clarification of the scope of your request

The FWO’s record keeping systems do not record a breakdown of ‘complaints’ involving individuals engaged in unpaid work on farms, hotels or yoga retreats. The FWO generally records matters according to the Australian and New Zealand Standard Industrial Classification (ANZSIC) code listed against the business within the Australian Business Register. For example, there is no category to my knowledge that would only encompass ‘yoga retreats’. This may for example be covered by an industry code within the accommodation industry. Alternatively, yoga centres may be listed as in the ‘Sports and Physical Recreation Instruction’ industry (code 82110). This industry however includes a large range of other sporting businesses, such as gymnasiums, health clubs, fitness centres and swimming pools. Further information about the ANZSIC industry codes is available through the Australian Taxation Office’s Business industry code search website (https://www.ato.gov.au/Calculators-and-t....

Please note that in 2016-17 alone the FWO received nearly 27,000 Requests for Assistance involving a workplace dispute. Further information about our compliance activities is available in our Compliance and Enforcement Policy and on page 13 of our 2016-17 Annual Report.

Documents relating to these Requests for Assistance are stored within our document management systems, which allow for the generation of certain reports, particularly those based on an industry. However, the FWO does not have a single document or registry that lists all these requests. Another difficulty in processing the request will be identifying which ‘complaints’ have come from individuals engaged in volunteer or unpaid work in exchange for food and accommodation. The FWO’s reporting system does not distinctly record all matters that may involve unpaid work in a manner that makes them easily and quickly identifiable. This information may be recorded within searchable free-text fields within our document management system, but it is very likely that any such searches, were they to identify some matters within scope of your request, would considerably underestimate the total number of matters actually within scope.

Next Action

We would like to invite you to provide a refined request scope and/or your contact details to us so that we may discuss narrowing and clarifying your request. Please respond to this email by 22 June 2018. Alternatively, you may wish to consider contacting us directly at [FWO request email], quoting reference number FOI-907.

Cameron Hankins | Assistant Director (a/g), Customer Feedback and Information Access
Fair Work Ombudsman

GPO Box 9880 Melbourne VIC 3001 | Level 14, 414 La Trobe Street. Melbourne VIC 3000

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From: FWO - FOI Requests
Fair Work Ombudsman

UNCLASSIFIED
Dear Ms Zie

I refer to my previous response of 15 June 2018 regarding your request for: ‘the latest documents that include, a list of complaints from people who worked as volunteers in Australian farms, hotels, or yoga retreats in exchange for free food and accommodation, received in 2016, 2017 and 2018’.

My correspondence outlined the issues arising from processing your request, most notably that identifying these documents will be very difficult.

You were invited to provide a refined request scope and/or your contact details to us so that we may discuss narrowing and clarifying your request, or otherwise to confirm that you wish to pursue your request as currently worded. To date we have not received a response.

As per my previous email, if you wish to proceed with your request, you can provide a refined scope to [FWO request email].

If we do not receive further contact with you about this matter by Wednesday, 4 July 2018, we will consider the matter closed.

Should you have any questions, or would like to discuss this matter further, I can be contacted by email at [FWO request email]

Thanks

Cameron Hankins | Assistant Director (a/g), Customer Feedback and Information Access Fair Work Ombudsman

GPO Box 9880 Melbourne VIC 3001 | Level 14, 414 La Trobe Street. Melbourne VIC 3000

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