Travel

Bite your tongue to keep the job: Canadian backpacker

Ayaka Miura cutting vines in the sweet potato fields on Grange Road. Photo: Mike Knott wet3108b
Ayaka Miura cutting vines in the sweet potato fields on Grange Road. Photo: Mike Knott wet3108b Mike Knott

CANADIAN backpacker Simeon Meier doesn't have a lot of respect for Australian employers and backpacker hostels.

The 27-year-old lived and worked in Bundaberg from mid-May to October last year on a variety of farms and was a night manager at a local backpacker hostel.

While he didn't have any problems getting paid, he said if you wanted to hold on to your job, you had to bite your tongue and not say anything. "If you're not giving 120%, the farms will just tell the hostel that they don't want you back," Mr Meier said.

He admitted working at a sweet potato farm was the "most back-breaking work of my life".

"The first day of work my back was in spasms and it took me about two weeks to get used to it," Mr Meier said.

While there were easier jobs out there, he said they might only be a couple of hours a week, so it wasn't enough to survive on.

When asked why backpackers bothered staying if they weren't happy with the work or the hostels, he said the problem was that it wouldn't necessarily be better anywhere else

"People that have full-time work just bite the bullet and put up with it," he said.

Finding accommodation elsewhere meant trying to check in with other hostels to see if they had any vacancies.

"But they don't have a waiting list, so you have to try and get in while the office is open, which is hard if you're working all day," he said.

Mr Meier was a night manager for about two-and-a-half months, a role he says was supposed to be a two-person job.

"I started at 5pm and babysat the hostel after the owner went home for the day, doing a bit of cleaning. During winter there was about 20-30 people, but in the busier times up to 70-80 people," he said.

He received half off his weekly rent for doing the role.

Mr Meier is working in Sydney now, working as a labourer laying wooden floors.

"I'm just working to save enough money to head home," he said.

"Australia is a beautiful place, with amazing beaches and I came to see all of that and get some life experience, but I just have a laugh about it now."

Topics:  back, editors picks, exploitation, four corners



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