Fair Work Ombudsman encourages fruit & veg pickers to know their workplace rights

15 October 2013

The Fair Work Ombudsman is encouraging fruit and vegetable pickers on the harvest trail - in particular foreign workers - to check their workplace entitlements.

The Fair Work Ombudsman continues to receive complaints from pickers and other seasonal workers and many are substantiated, with underpayment of wages the main issue.

The sector attracts many foreign workers, with many working holiday visa holders doing the required three-month regional stint to secure a second 12-month working holiday visa.

Many employers paying piece work rates also fail to have written piece work agreements in place, which outline the rates of pay pickers will get under the award, and provide their workers with a signed copy of these agreements.

Over the past two years about 230 complaints in the fruit picking sector were investigated and $80,000 was recovered for 107 workers. Approximately one third were visa holders - mostly working holiday makers.

Recently, $7,500 was recovered for 100 strawberry pickers, most of whom were working holiday makers in Caboolture on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast.

Fair Work Ombudsman, Natalie James, said harvest workers can be vulnerable to exploitation, or inadvertent underpayments, because they’re often not aware of what they should be receiving, or where to turn for information and advice.

The Fair Work Ombudsman is stepping up its effort to target these workers, with dedicated information on its Facebook external-icon.png page, with specific information and links to help pickers and harvest workers understand their entitlements.

It includes information about pay and entitlements, templates for piece rate agreements, and translated resources in Chinese, Vietnamese and Korean - the major source countries for working holiday makers to Australia.

“The Fair Work Ombudsman will continue to keep a close eye on the industry but we also encourage any worker who thinks they might be missing out on correct pay and entitlements to have a look at the resources on our Facebook page, or contact us on 13 13 94, 13 14 50 if an interpreter is required, or by visiting fairwork.gov.au,” Ms James said.

“Foreign workers looking to work on seasonal harvest work are big users of social media - either before they come to Australia or once they are here - so we hope that they make use of these resources to ensure they are well informed about their workplace entitlements in Australia.”

A two-hour live Q&A session will take place on Facebook on 23 October where workers and employers can ask Fair Work advisors about pay and entitlements and what they should be paying their staff. Employers and employees can sign up to the event by pressing ‘join’ on the event link, which will then enable them to post their questions on the day.

Media inquiries:

Penny Rowe, Media & Stakeholder Relations
0457 924 146
media@fwo.gov.au

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