Exploitive WorkReading Time: 3 minutes
So, I’m doing my usual doomscrolling through Facebook on an afternoon and I come across this post from the official Swan Valley page posted on behalf of Harris Organic Wines:
Are you serious?
I’m not here to discuss whether or not backpackers picking fruit is exploitive in itself. That’s been done to death and the consensus is that yeah, they generally get a raw deal when they’re forced to pay for rent on a shitty little dorm on the farmers property along with food allowances etc, making their actual in pocket pay fuck all.
This though, this is something much more disturbing. The thing is, people will happily fall for it.
Read the post carefully if you haven’t noticed what the problem. Harris Organic Wines are selling a job that would normally paid, as an experience. You pay them $25 and you get to experience 2 hours of pretty taxing labour, in return, you get a woodfired pizza lunch and some wine tastings.
In the post, they clearly mention that they normally get backpackers in to do this work. Now, backpackers would be compensated (whether fairly or not is up for debate), but they would make some sort of money and would likely also receive some sort of food too (cost likely deducted from their take home, but anyway). The point is, they get take home money.
But, since COVID has been around making travel impossible in to Australia, there are very few backpackers around at the moment. So, this winery has decided to enlist help from the general public in getting their vines picked so they can make a product that they sell for a profit.
Harris Organic Wines is not a non-for-profit. Those grapes they need picked are being turned in to sellable products that they in turn make a profit from.
I can tell you from first hand experience, grape picking is labour intensive. I’ve done it before. It isn’t the most pleasant experience. When I did it, it was in a not entirely dissimilar situation to what Harris Organic Wines was doing. The main differences were as follows:
- It was a family hobby winery owned by friends
- We got to join in a huge lunch feast after the fact
- I received a couple of bottles as thanks
- Most importantly, I didn’t pay an entry fee!
What Harris Organic Wines is doing is wrong. It’s turning paid work in to an ‘experience in the valley’ and making people pay for said experience. Whilst I understand that volunteers aren’t going to be as reliable as paid workers and you may want some method to ensure only reliable people are coming, charging for an ‘experience’ for what would otherwise be paid work is tone-deaf in this current environment.
There are genuinely people looking for paid work who would be happy doing labour intensive tasks like this just to pay a few bills or to have some extra spending money. Hell, some of them might even be happy to just have a couple bottles of decent wine in the cupboard.
The thing that pisses me off the most though, is people will look at this as a lovely little adventure out in the valley. A little experience for them where they pay their entry fee and get to pick some grapes and have some lunch.
It is disappointing to see this sort of behaviour happening and people being exploited to do the work of a commercial organisation at cost to the person doing the work.