Published: 16/02/2024

Twelve migrant women have lodged a complaint in the Federal Court of Australia against a giant South Australian tomato glasshouse, Perfection Fresh, for repeated sexual harassment at work. IUF affiliate United Workers Union (UWU) is representing the workers and leading a campaign for justice.

IUF affiliates will unfortunately not be surprised given the endemic gender-based violence and harassment (GBVH) in the agriculture sector; however, ILO Convention 190 together with workplace fights like the one at Perfection Fresh are already pushing societies to confront the patriarchal oppression of workers. While the WHO reports that one out of three women worldwide experiences physical or sexual violence in her life, very few women dare to report it, let alone pursue cases in court; thus the importance of publicizing and supporting this important struggle, so that more victims and survivors will speak out.

  • The workers claim that they were sexually harassed by two men in positions of “authority, trust and control in relation to the applicants;” as mentioned in a document released by the court. As one of the workers testified in court, “The conduct was outrageous. It involved the abuse of power by a superior against employees who were socially, racially, and economically vulnerable”
  • Through their fight, the “Perfection 12,” are demanding that the 10,000 workers in the Perfection Fresh supply chain have job security, access to the union from their first day, and freedom of speech without retaliation for union activity, all fundamental to ensuring the prevention and elimination of GBVH at Perfection Fresh
  • The workers are suing Perfection Fresh because it failed in its legal duty, as an employer, to ensure a safe workplace for women including its lack of policies to prevent GBVH

Solidarity messages (written or video) to these 12 brave women can be sent to UWU Farms Director and IUF Second Principal Vice President: [email protected].

The women workers have just launched an online album of eight tracks including a reimagined version of the historic song “Bread and Roses” with rewritten lyrics about working in the tomato farms in Australia. Please listen and share the album:

Job security and the right to speak up and support each other in this environment are key factors at eliminating sexual harassment and gendered workplace violence. The ‘Perfection 12’ are fighting for job security, improved union rights and safety because they want these changes for all workers that pick and pack the fruit and vegetables for Coles and Woolworths – and for workers everywhere.
Caterina Cinnani, UWU Farms Director and IUF Second Principal Vice President