Voice of Horticulture welcomes Ombudsman's Australia's Harvest Trail report and pushed for more diligence in labour care

22nd November 2018

Peak horticulture body, Voice of Horticulture has welcomed the release of a report into the Fair Work Ombudsman’s inquiry into workplaces along Australia’s Harvest Trail.

Chair, Tania Chapman applauded the inquiry’s diligence, investigating the businesses of 444 growers and 194 labour hire contractors since August 2013.

Ms Chapman said the report exposed a disappointing level of non-compliance with workplace laws, including the misuse of piecework rates, failure to keep proper records, and the negative impact of labour hire arrangements.

The inquiry highlighted the importance of growers taking responsibility for ensuring workers were employed and paid properly.

“We have always advocated that our members employ workers directly wherever possible,” Ms Chapman said.

“This ensures they can control record-keeping, ensure every person on their farm has the legal right to work, and is properly inducted and paid for their efforts.”

Ms Chapman said finding sufficient labour at peak periods had become increasingly difficult for growers and labour hire contractors were taking advantage of this pressure.

She welcomed the Fair Work Ombudsman’s proposal to establish a reference group to develop and deliver specific strategies to improve the treatment of workers.

At the same time, Ms Chapman said more needed to be done to ease the difficulty growers faced in securing a reliable supply of workers, especially at harvest time.

“Three years ago the Voice of Horticulture suggested a ‘green card’ system where potential workers coming to Australia would undertake training to become farm ready,” she said.

“This could include occupational health and safety, farm induction and providing information about workers’ rights and obligations.

“We also need a more rigorous system for granting ABNs, so that all owners and directors of labour hire companies – many of them overseas nationals and visa holders – understand the rules of doing business in Australia.”

The Harvest Trail Inquiry started in August 2013, in response to employee and community concerns about breaches of Australian workplace laws, including underpayment of wages and unscrupulous practices by labour hire companies.

It focused on those sectors which rely heavily on manual labour for harvesting, preparation, maintenance and processing. This included citrus, grapes, strawberries, cherries, mushrooms, apples and tomatoes.

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Voice of Horticulture is a member-based organisation that represents growers and businesses involved in producing fruit, nuts, onions, mushrooms, processing tomatoes, turf and nursery plants across Australia.


Media contacts

Tania Chapman
Chair, Voice of Horticulture
0428 291 717
chair@voiceofhorticulture.org.au

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