Australian vegetable industry strongly condemns mistreatment of workers

In response to the Harvest Trail Inquiry released by the Fair Work Ombudsman (FWO), AUSVEG has expressed concern about the level of non-compliance detailed in the report and is confident actions already undertaken by the industry will result in better conditions for workers and remove those operators in the industry who do not adhere to the law.

“We categorically condemn the mistreatment of farm workers in any form and this type of behaviour has no place in the horticulture industry,” said AUSVEG Chair and Gippsland vegetable grower Bill Bulmer.

“As an industry we have identified that this is an issue and are working with government, growers, unions, retailers and others in the supply chain to find a workable solution that protects workers and stamps out mistreatment once and for all.”

Over the last two years, Queensland horticulture representative body Growcom has established the Fair Farms Initiative, which gives good growers the mechanism to differentiate themselves from those who do the wrong thing via a third-party audit recognised by the supply chain.

“Fair Farms supports growers with tools and information to implement employment practices that comply with workplace relations laws and industry standards. They can then demonstrate this compliance to their customers and the industry through a third-party audited certification scheme,” said Mr Bulmer.

The report included a number of recommendations designed to secure industry-wide compliance, including:

  • Establishing a Harvest Trail Working Group within the FWO to coordinate and prioritise the next phase of education, engagement and compliance activities for the Harvest Trail;
  • Partnering with key intermediaries, including horticulture industry bodies, and community organisations to educate growers and their employees on their workplace rights and obligations;
  • Enhancing the regulatory framework that governs the rights and obligations of all Harvest Trail workplace participants;
  • Building a culture of compliance on the Harvest Trail; and
  • Disseminating the Harvest Trail Inquiry report to government and stakeholders.

“AUSVEG accepts the key recommendations as outlined in the report and has offered to work with the FWO to assist them in implementation,” said Mr Bulmer.

“AUSVEG has long called for a national labour hire accreditation scheme that has adequate resources for investigation and enforcement to hold rogue operators in the labour hire industry to account and to clean up the sector.”

“The FWO has also identified the importance of increasing consumer awareness of the ‘true cost’ of fresh produce, including the required labour costs associated with picking and harvesting produce. We are willing to work with retailers to ensure that this is made clearer at the retail level, which will help support the growers in our industry who are doing the right thing and treating their workers appropriately.

“We welcome the establishment of the Harvest Trail Working Group however we ask the Ombudsman to ensure the appropriate representation has a seat at the table,” Mr Bulmer said.

“We will continue working with industry and the Australian Government to ensure that all farm workers are treated fairly, but we will stand up for the reputation of most of our growers who are good, decent people and do the right thing by their workers.”

AUSVEG’s membership consists of State Members throughout Australia including NSW Farmers, Growcom, NT Farmers, vegetablesWA, Potatoes WA, Tasmanian Farmers’ and Graziers’ Association, AUSVEG VIC and AUSVEG SA.

For more information:
AUSVEG
www.ausveg.com.au


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