SWP Union members accessing superannuation

Superannuation in Australia is the equivalent of National Provident Fund in Vanuatu.

Funds are there for workers to use when they retire.

Recently some returned seasonal workers who were in Australia doing farm work under the Seasonal Workers Programme (SWP) had some issues regarding the superannuation.

A few of them felt that the process was too long and too complicated and some even felt that the Australian government was robbing them by holding on to their superannuation funds.

Following discussions on the topic the Buzz FM 96, Coffee and Controversy show on the 20th of November 2018, information relayed from the Australian Super stated that in general, superannuation was paid separately by the employer every quarterly (3 months) and it was based on 9.5% of a worker’s quarterly salary.

Based on the Australian minimum wage which sits at $23/ hour on and 8-hour daily shift in a 5-day week, an average farm worker would make $11,040.

9.5% of that is $1,048 paid to the worker’s superannuation fund per quarterly.

Under the SWP regulations, workers can now stay up to 9 months in Australia on seasonal work visas, with the extra 3 months to be spent out of Australia.

Upon completion of the contract the workers should have about $2097 in their superannuation funds.

Tulia Wanemut, a SWP worker however mentioned that the Australian Union of Workers helped her to claim her superannuation fund.

She continued saying that agents usually charge a lot for their assistance but in her case, as a member of the Vanuatu National Workers Union (VNWU), things ran smoothly since she and a few other workers joined the National Union of Workers in Australia while working there before returning to join the VNWU in Vanuatu.

Tim Nelthorpe, organizer of the National Union of Workers in Australia, who visited the Buzz FM 96 studio explained how his organization helped do all the paper for the workers before they returned so they could access their superannuation funds upon return to Vanuatu.

The organizer further stated there are about 133 Superannuation companies in Australia, however most of them make things complicated for the workers.

He said seasonal workers who are members of the union have their superannuation funds managed by LUCRF Super who the union has connections with.

Six weeks is apparently how long it should take for the process to transfer superannuation funds from Australia to Vanuatu for the workers to receive.

A lot of the workers who received their superannuation managed to travel to Australia again for seasonal work and to reopen their superannuation accounts.

Valua Gremson, vice president of the VNWU and organizer of the Vanuatu Union of Workers added that together with his Australian counterparts they had helped over 700 Ni Vanuatu seasonal workers between 2015 – 2018 to access their superannuation funds valued at around $AUD2000 per worker.

According to the Vanuatu Department of Labour, the seasonal workers who went to Australia did not receive their super not because they failed to follow procedures but because they themselves did not fill in their proper names and addresses on their forms.

The compliance officer continued to mention that seasonal workers that go to Australia again do not need to reapply for superannuation membership as their membership numbers will remain for everything to be restarted.

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