Fair Work Ombudsman focuses on cherry farms

28 November 2013

Inspectors from the Fair Work Ombudsman will visit cherry farms in NSW,Victoria, South Australia and Tasmania to check employers are paying fruitpickers their full entitlements during the harvest period.

Fair Work Inspectors will conduct audits at up to 65 farms, including:

  • NSW: up to 35 farms in the Young, Orange and Mudgee areas during December
  • VIC: up to 10 farms in the Yarra Valley area during December
  • SA: up to 10 farms in the Adelaide Hills area during December
  • TAS: up to 10 farms in Derwent Valley, Huon Valley and Coal River Valley regions in January.

Fair Work Ombudsman Natalie James said cherry farms were being focused onbecause in recent years they had been the source of several underpaymentcomplaints from fruit pickers, including young and foreign workers such asbackpackers.

Ms James says common non-compliance issues in the industry include:

  • Underpayment of minimum hourly rates under the Horticulture Award 2010,
  • Failure to make written piecework agreements with employees on piece rates,
  • Failing to provide piece rate employees with a copy of their agreement,
  • Failure to keep time-and-wages records, particularly for casual employees,
  • Failure to provide the Fair Work Information Statement to new employees,
  • Detailed pay slips not being provided within one day of pay day, and
  • Unlawful deductions from employees’ wages for travel and accommodation.

Ms James says that during the audits, Fair Work Inspectors will checkemployers' compliance with workplace laws and also encourage cherry pickers tocome forward with any queries or concerns they have.

"We are conscious that many fruit pickers are young and foreign workers whomay be vulnerable if they are not fully aware of their entitlements or reluctantto complain, so it’s important that we are proactive about ensuring they arereceiving their full lawful entitlements," Ms James said.

Ms James says in cases of non-compliance, thepreference of Fair Work Inspectors will be to assist growers to voluntarilyrectify their issues and educate them about the range of free resources at www.fairwork.gov.au/horticulture theycan use to ensure ongoing compliance.

In cases of serious, deliberate or repeated contraventions, or if growers arenot willing to co-operate, Inspectors may consider taking further action.

The audits come after Fair Work Inspectors earlier this month conductedinformation sessions on workplace laws for cherry growers in regional NSW and inthe Adelaide Hills.

"During the educational visits we provided growers with information aboutmeeting their obligations under workplace laws, particularly in relation topayment of seasonal workers," Ms James said.

Advice available at www.fairwork.gov.au/horticulture includesdetailed information about the Horticulture Award 2010, classifications andcategories of workers, hours of work, breaks and laws relating to paying piecerates.

Other free resources available for download at www.fairwork.gov.au include templates fortime-and-wages sheets and pay slips and copies of the Fair Work InformationStatement.

Best Practice Guides, which were downloaded 93,000 times last financial year,are available on a range of topics, including employing young workers and thereis a section of the website specifically tailored for young workers.

Information translated into 27 different languagesis available at www.fairwork.gov.au/languages.

Employers and employees seeking advice or assistance should visit the websiteor call the Fair Work Infoline on 13 13 94. A free interpreterservice is available on 13 14 50.

Media inquiries:

Penny Rowe, Media & StakeholderRelations
0457 924 146

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