National Farmers' Federation

AIRC gives final tick to farmers’ win on national wage case

THE Australian Industrial Relations Commission (AIRC) today handed down its decision on the 2007 Wages and Allowances review, enabling the Australian Fair Pay Commission’s (AFPC’s) July 2007 decision to flow-on to Transitional Awards.
The AIRC determination also approved the 12-month deferral of wage increases (granted by the AFPC) for farming employers in receipt of Exceptional Circumstance Interest Rate Subsidies, provided they write to employees expressing their intention to do so.
“The National Farmers’ Federation (NFF) stressed to the AFPC earlier this year that despite the national economy performing strongly, special consideration should be afforded to the farm sector in recognition of the worst drought on record,” NFF CEO Ben Fargher said.
“The AFPC decision to enable farmers suffering exceptional circumstances to defer the wage increase for 12 months was an historic ruling. Today that decision has been vindicated.
“Those farmers who are looking to rebound at what we hope is the beginning of the drought recovery process in some parts of the country, will be able to maintain their existing workforce and consider further employment into the future.
“We stress that often, due to a chronic rural labour shortage, farmers pay ‘over the odds’ just to get workers, but this deferral could be the buffer necessary to get the sector back on its feet, productive and present opportunities for growth and more jobs as we emerge from drought.
“In the meantime, we argued to both the AIRC and AFPC that any cost increase to the farming sector at this crucial time would result in extreme financial difficulties – it would hurt farmers already in difficulty and seriously dampen current employment levels, let alone new job prospects as the drought hopefully eases.”
In effect, wages in Transitional Awards were increased by $10.30 for wages up to $700.00 per week, and by $5.30 for wages exceeding $700 per week.
Further, the AIRC agreed with the NFF that work related allowances, which are increased on the basis of wage increases, should not go up where wage rates do not.
“Today’s decision makes wage rates across pre-reform and Transitional Awards consistent,” Mr Fargher noted.
“Ensuring wages reflect an employers’ ability to pay not only helps viable farming businesses to continue to operate through severe drought, but ensures existing jobs are protected and future entry into employment, as appropriate, gets a leg up.
“Of course, those farm employers in a position to do so, can continue to pay ‘over the odds’ to attract workers, as well as providing non-financial benefits, such as lodging, which are often just as important to those working in the sector.”

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