Fair Work Ombudsman focus on Caboolture strawberry farms
13 August 2013
The Fair Work Ombudsman is monitoring strawberry farms around Caboolture
after receiving a number of complaints about underpayments to foreign
Fair Work Inspectors were in the district last week and visited nine farms to
check that employers were meeting their obligations under workplace law.
Fair Work Ombudsman, Natalie James, said the visits identified a number of
"Some employers paying workers piece-rates had no written agreement with
employees, as required by law," Ms James said.
"This is a really important issue. In the absence of a piece-work agreement,
workers are required to be paid hourly rates of pay according to the Modern
Award, which for an adult casual is $20.40 per hour.
"We also found a number of employers not maintaining appropriate records and
not providing workers with pay slips - or pay slips not including all the
"Providing pay slips is a legal requirement on employers. It's designed to
allow employees to satisfy themselves that they've received all their
Ms James said Inspectors discussed issues with individual employers and
provided them with information and tools and resources to ensure they can meet
their obligations. Our Inspectors also provided information to employees.
"Fair Work Inspectors will be returning to the district next month and where
compliance is not satisfactory, further action may be taken," Ms James said.
"This can range from issuing one-the-spot fines for breaches of workplace
law, right up to legal action in the federal courts, where significant penalties
of up to $51,000 per breach apply.
"The Fair Work Ombudsman is particularly concerned for vulnerable workers,
including young and/or foreign workers, who may not be fully aware of their
"The district relies heavily on the labour provided by foreign workers at
this time of year, particularly working holiday makers, many of whom are
undertaking seasonal harvest work to secure a second working holiday maker
"Many workers were reluctant to speak to us during our visits. However, we
have since received further information from some workers about potential
underpayments and also copies of a piece-work agreement from one employer which
requires workers to provide one week’s notice of termination or have one week’s
wages withheld - neither of these requirements is lawful."
"The Fair Work Ombudsman's role is to help both employers and employees. Our
visits have helped employers understand their obligations and meet them. I
would hope to see a significant improvement in compliance with workplace laws
when Inspectors return over the coming weeks."
Employers and employees can contact the Fair Work
Ombudsman on 13 13 94 or, if a translator is required, on
13 14 50 or visit fairwork.gov.au/horticulture
where there is information specifically on seasonal harvest work.
Follow the Fair Work Ombudsman on Twitter @fairwork_gov_au
or find us on Facebook
Tom McPherson, Media & Stakeholder
0439 835 855
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