Horticulture Showcase

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Horticulture piecework agreement assessment guide

This Guide is about paying piecework rates under the Horticulture Award.

Piecework rates are paid instead of an hourly rate. Piecework is a method of payment, not a type of employment; pieceworkers are still full time, part time or casual employees.

A piecework rate is where an employee gets paid by the piece. It’s based on the amount the employee has picked, packed, pruned or made.

A piecework rate is based on individual effort only, not group effort.

On this page:

1. Piecework agreements must be in writing

2. Piecework agreements must have an appropriate rate of pay

1. Piecework agreements must be in writing

The Horticulture Award says that a piecework agreement must be in writing and signed by the employer and the employee.

The Horticulture Award requires that the employer and employee must have genuinely made the piecework agreement without coercion or duress.

The Horticulture Award requires that the piecework rate agreed is to be paid for all work performed in accordance with the piecework agreement.

An employer must give the employee a copy of the piecework agreement and keep the piecework agreement as a time and wages record in accordance with the Horticulture Award.

If an employer has not kept the right records, we may:

For more information, go to Litigation.

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2. Piecework agreements must have an appropriate rate of pay

The Horticulture Award says that a piecework rate must ‘enable the average competent employee to earn at least 15% more per hour than the minimum hourly rate’ for their employment type and classification.

We will look at whether the rates in a piecework agreement meet this requirement.

An employer will be required to identify the average competent employee and their pick rate at the time the piecework agreement is entered into.

There are many factors that affect what an ‘average competent employee’ is at each enterprise.  There is no standard across the horticulture industry or within particular industries or locations.  It can be different between properties with the same crop type and location.  It can even be different on the same property at different times.

Therefore, we will look at a range of factors in each case to assess the characteristics and pick rate of the average competent employee, including:

The workforce available

  • What level of diligence, aptitude and experience can be attributed to the workers available?
  • How transient or stable is the workforce?
  • What is the actual work being performed by the workforce?

The crop involved

  • Is it a delicate crop requiring greater care in picking (i.e. berries, mangoes) or is it a crop that is more robust (i.e. citrus)?  This includes both the crop type (i.e. apples, mushrooms) and the variety (i.e. pink lady or granny smith; button or oyster).
  • How big is the produce?
  • How does the produce ripen?
  • How densely does the produce grow on the plant?

The plants involved

  • Is the plant in a natural form or has it been modified (i.e. shaped or grown on a trellis)?
  • What is the plant shape (i.e. traditional or modern/ streamlined)?
  • How densely are the plants planted?
  • What is the size of the plant (i.e. is equipment needed to reach produce, does the picking involve reaching/ bending)?

Terrain

  • Is the location flat or on a slope?
  • Is there clear access for people and equipment (i.e. has the orchard been mown or is there high grass, is the ground rocky)?

The particular harvest

  • What are the picking/ pruning conditions (i.e. picking may be slower if it’s wet)?
  • What is the condition and ripeness of the crop (i.e. some crops are less bountiful or harder to pick earlier/ later in the season)?
  • Is it a good harvest or a poor harvest?

The picking required

  • Is it selective or strip harvesting (selective picking will usually be slower)?
  • Are employees picking into a bin or into punnets (i.e. punnets are usually more labour intensive and therefore typically result in slower picking)?
  • What is the punnet or bin size?
  • What is the difficultly of the work being performed?

The size and sophistication of the enterprise

  • How new or experienced is the enterprise?
  • What is the setup of the enterprise (i.e. traditional or modern farm, hothouse, are there raised beds)?
  • What is the size of the enterprise (i.e. how far do pickers need to travel around the enterprise to harvest or deliver produce)?
  • What is the level of mechanisation (i.e. is the crop mainly picked by hand or machine)?
  • What equipment is used?
  • Is the crop packed in the field or in a shed/ elsewhere?

In the packing shed

  • Where is the produce packed?
  • What is the level of mechanisation?
  • How is the produce packed (i.e. are the packers ‘pattern’ packing or ‘tumble’ packing, are they only weighing produce and filling punnets/ boxes, are they applying any quality control)?

Harvesting/ pick data

  • How many units have been picked by all workers at a particular enterprise/ location over a period of time?
  • Have any workers been able to earn 15% above their minimum hourly rate and if yes, how often?

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Resources

WORKER & GROWER RESOURCES

Piecework agreement template