Aboriginals working on the cotton fields of northern New South Wales are organising strikes to protest working and living conditions.
GV workers in cotton fields
Crowds at Wee Was protest meeting
Police and crowds: getting signatures on petition
CU abo. girl
GV protest group
Abo. leader interviewed
Cotton field owner interviewed
GV abo. humpies and shacks at river
Abos. at store
Abo. interviewed - worker
GV cotton fields and workers
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Background: Aboriginals working on the cotton fields of northern New South Wales are organising strikes to protest working and living conditions. Aboriginal leaders describe the conditions as "slave labour". One spokesman, Mr. Paul Coe, said that if white men were working under conditions like those in Wee Was, the Australian trade union movement would be up in arms.
About 1200 aboriginal workers on the fields have formed the Cotton Chippers' Caucus -- a new body aimed at protecting itinerant farm labourers from exploitation. The cotton chippers work up to ten hours a day for one-dollar-20(Aust) per hour. After they finish work they go back to riverside shanties and "humpies" with no toilet facilities and no recreation areas.
Cauous leaders say workers have been collapsing daily from heat exhaustion intemperatures up to 120 degrees fahrenheit. Another complaint is that aboriginals are exploited by Wee Waa tradespeople who allegedly put up prices during the three-month cotton picking season.
Some of the cotton farms are owned by Americans.
At Wee Waa this week aboriginals held a protest meeting and collected signatures to form the new Caucus. Meanwhile the operations manager of the WEe WAA Cotton Co-operative, Mr. Greg Lynch, said that most cotton chippers were "very happy" with conditions and it was untrue to say they were working in slave labour conditions.
The aboriginal group intends to call further protest meetings and strikes until action is taken on their requests for better general conditions.