NSW Farmers committed to address problems set out in the Harvest Trail Inquiry Report
NSW Farmers has welcomed the Fair Work Ombudsman report of its Harvest Trail Inquiry, a culmination of the Ombudsman’s five year education and compliance activities that followed the seasonal harvesting of fruit and vegetables across the country.
Guy Gaeta, NSW Farmers Horticulture Chair, said the headline findings provide a sobering reminder that the industry should be doing better by farm workers.
“We do not condone underpayment or mistreatment of workers. Farm workers are critical in the production of agricultural produce, they should be treated fairly and equitably. Growers who are intentionally undercutting market competition by paying substandard wages should be brought to light and penalised accordingly.”
“Equally, we must recognise that many, many growers are doing the right thing, and that some of the instances of wrongdoing identified in the FWO report were minor,” Mr Gaeta said.
“The agriculture sector is particularly reliant on foreign workers to complete harvest work and we strive to keep Australia as the destination of choice for these cohort of workers.”
NSW Farmers Chair of Workplace Relations, Paul Shoker, said NSW Farmers is committed to working with all stakeholders and others in the supply chain to address the issue head on.
“As an industry we acknowledge there is an unacceptable level of non-compliance,” Mr Shoker said
“For this very reason, NSW Farmers has consistently provided growers with assistance, information and tools to implement workplace practices that meet legal requirements. We will continue to do so as part of our continuing support for our members.
“While underpayments of any workers are not tolerated, it is useful to understand the drivers behind non-compliance so the root cause can be addressed.
“Labour shortages in the industry, particularly during harvest season, when growers are working within a tight timeframe, have left many growers with no other option but to engage labour through available but unverified labour hire company.
“Growers as price takers are unable to pass on increase cost. There is an acknowledgement in the report that market pressures, particularly those brought by supermarkets, is a contributing factor to the issue,” Mr Shoker said.
NSW Farmers is committed to continue working with industry and government to develop a way forward to improve industry compliance rates in the state.
“We welcome the creation of a Harvest Trail Working Group within FWO and look forward to further engagements with the Ombudsman on the issues identified in the report.”
Date: Thursday 22 November 2019
Media Contact: Kathleen Curry | Public Affairs Director | 0429 011 690