National Farmers' Federation

NFF kills 100% cost hike for farmers under new Award

THE National Farmers’ Federation (NFF) has recorded an historic victory in the Australian Industrial Relations Commission (AIRC), successfully defending the retention of the flexible and straight forward hours-of-work provisions under threat from the Federal Government’s Award modernisation reforms.
“The Pastoral Industry Award (PIA) has provided a ‘flexible hours-of-work’ clause reflecting the practical needs of the sector for decades,” NFF President David Crombie said. “Yet the AIRC, in its January 2009 draft of the modern Pastoral Award, sought to obliterate the clause and replace it with no less than four costly and highly restraining conditions.
“The result would have seen minimum wage hikes of 10%, scaling all the way up to a massive 100% for the dairy sector.
“The NFF, with the assistance of the Australian Farmers’ Fighting Fund (AFFF), engaged Senior Counsel to ensure that farmers had the best possible legal representation to fight the Award changes head on.
“As a result, the AIRC has now reversed its earlier position and restated its acceptance of the existing provision for hours-of-work. That means the unjustifiable wage increases of 10 to 100% that were to be imposed on farm employers have been averted.
“The new Pastoral Award, which also replaces current equivalent state Awards, will now enshrine this greater flexibility for all those employers coming into the federal system as 1 January 2010.”
The AIRC published the modern Pastoral Award and Horticulture Award last Friday, providing a safety net of wages and conditions in the two major agricultural sectors.
“Despite this major win, farm employers are still going to feel the financial and regulatory pinch once the two new Awards come into play,” Mr Crombie advised. “The changes will mean a 38-hour week for shearing and flow on wage increases, new substantive classifications and wage structures for the Pastoral Award.
“Further, the higher piecework rates under the Horticulture Award will require transitional provisions, which we will be seeking from the AIRC in May.
“Consequently, the NFF is urging the Government to ensure that a major practical education campaign be undertaken, including industry-specific seminars, across the country.
“The Government has a responsibility to ensure that employers and employees are fully aware of provisions under both Awards, but also to clearly explain its unfair dismissal changes and their application in workplaces, what its new National Employment Standards mean and how its new-style workplace agreements will operate.”

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