The National Farmers’ Federation is urging horticulture workers who believe they have been underpaid to report their experience to the relevant authority.
“Whether you’re a backpacker, part of the Seasonal Worker Program, a school leaver, or a full-time employee, you are an essential part of our farm sector.
“It is crucial that you have a positive experience on farm, which begins with being paid the award wage.
“Instances where an employer allegedly hasn’t complied with their legal obligations must be taken up with the Fair Work Ombudsman.
“The large majority of horticulture growers do the right thing. They want workers to enjoy their job and value the farmer-worker partnership in putting food on shelves; fueling the economy and sustaining regional communities.
“Operators who don’t uphold the law are not only ripping off workers, but are also letting down their industry, at time when many are facing a dire workforce shortage. They must be held to account.”
Mr Mahar said he hoped Unions NSW has advised every individual profiled in their report released today to contact the relevant authorities.
He also cautioned, against conflating piece rates with the serious issue of underpayment – saying this attempt by Unions NSW was disingenuous at best.
“Piece work rates are a legal, well-established framework in the horticulture sector. Piece rates should enable a competent worker to earn 15% more than the minimum hourly wage.
“Abolishing piece rates won’t fix the acknowledged issue of worker underpayment.”
“Right now, a worker shortage of up to 26,000 is forcing farmers to leave fruit and vegetables unpicked to rot and to downscale future plantings.
“The stunt today by Unions NSW, supported by Federal Labor Opposition Leader, Anthony Albanese, wrongly conflates two unrelated issues.
“And, the result is a deterrent to those considering farm work – further exacerbating the farm workforce shortage. All at time when farm productivity has a lead role to play in rebuilding Australia’s COVID-depleted economy.”
Mr Mahar said the sector was taking action on the irrefutable evidence that more needs to be done to ensure workers in the horticulture sector have a positive experience.
“The NFF’s supports the grower-led Fair Farms initiative. Fair Farms supports all members of the Australian horticulture supply chain with the tools, information and training they need to be a compliant and ethical employer.
“We have long called for the introduction of a national labour hire regulation scheme, to hold labour hire entities to account, which research shows is a link in the ag workforce, where wrong doing occurs,” Mr Mahar said.
“We have also proactively worked with the Fair Work Ombudsman to address the problem.
“The introduction of a dedicated agriculture visa solution as called for by NFF for four years now, would ensure foreign workers holding the visa would only be placed with fully accredited employers,” Mr Mahar said.
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