Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Sheepherders and ranchers trade accusations over treatment, pay

Some Utah ranchers are complaining they spend big money to import sheepherders from Peru, but all too often the herders run away and take other work. Critics claim there's an underlying problem: too little pay for long hours in bad living conditions. Before foreigners can be brought in to herd sheep, federal regulations require the jobs to be advertised to Americans. There are rarely any takers. Nearly all sheepherders now are from Chile or Peru. Ranchers pay their air-fare and other expenses. They come on one-to-three year contracts with temporary visas. Ranchers provide food and housing, usually in a trailer and typically pay $750 dollars a month, a government-set minimum. According to sheep industry veterans, the Peruvians often jump ship for better paying jobs in the dairy or oil and gas industries. "We'll have one every year or every two years that will skip a contract," said rancher Phil Allred. "That's a several-thousand-dollar investment in each one of these guys," said sheep broker Doug Livingston. "And you go out to the camp and he's gone." According to Peruvians who have filed lawsuits or complaints with the department of labor, herders are typically on duty or on call 24 hours a day. "Seven days a week," said Yon Palomino. "You don't have vacation. You don't have nothing." Palomino says he personally was treated well by his rancer. But he said many Peruvians put up with bad food, or too little food, improper clothing, inadequate heat and other unsuitable conditions...more

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