While the agriculture industry accounted for 3% of the disputes we helped resolve in 2016–17, 10% of our enforcement outcomes involved employers in this sector. As the industry’s workforce is comprised of a high number of temporary visa workers, we work closely with agriculture businesses to help raise awareness and capability. As we go about our work, the importance of visa workers, particularly 417 visa holders (backpackers) as a source of labour is very clear. Our work with the sector is to promote employment arrangements that are lawful, particularly those businesses which engage workers through the agency of labour hire.
Activities to support these aims included:
- Working with the Migrant Workers’ Taskforce in implementing the key recommendations of the FWO’s 417 Working Holiday Visa Inquiry report (as outlined in Migrant workers), including ensuring the integrity of the framework that operates with respect to visa holders seeking a second-year visa.
- Working with industry stakeholders through our Community Engagement Grants Program and Horticulture Roundtable to raise awareness and capability with workplace laws. Activities undertaken through the program include training for Queensland horticulture employers and the development of the Fair Farms Initiative.
- Producing new labour supply chain resources to support compliant outsourcing of labour and contracting arrangements, as outlined in Labour procurement and supply chain practices.
- Initiating legal proceedings in order to provide clarity on the application of the Horticulture Industry Award’s piece rate rules. Piece rates have a long-standing role in the sector, however there are differing views as to how the award’s provisions apply. In Fair Work Ombudsman v Hu & Ors we are seeking to remove this ambiguity and welcome the participation of other industry stakeholders to bring about clarity in the sector.