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Australia: Major fresh produce employers commit to sustainable and ethical employment practices

With the release of data which shows Australian Fresh Produce Alliance members employ in excess of 22,000 people across more than 100 different production locations, the Alliance has committed to working with retailers, suppliers, government and their grower networks to ensure that industry complies with relevant laws and standards of sustainable and ethical employment.

”As a major employer in regional and rural Australia of both local and temporary migrant workers, it is vitally important that we create a culture of active management by improving the sector’s employment practices and reputation, including proactively meeting all employment and duty of care obligations”, said Alliance CEO, Mr. Michael Rogers.

The Alliance also has a significant grower supplier network responsible for the employment of more than 25,000 additional people. According to ABS data, Australian horticulture employs 72,800 people across 11,490 businesses.

“Due to the time sensitive and seasonal nature of harvesting fresh produce, it is vitally important that growers have access to a workforce that is mobile and readily available to harvest crops to optimise returns based on the seasonal nature of fresh produce production”, said Mr Rogers.

Alliance member data shows most full-time roles are filled by Australian citizens, while many harvest and temporary roles are more likely to be filled through specific programs and visas, including the Pacific Seasonal Worker Scheme and Working Holiday Makers visa.

“We are focused on improving the sector’s employment practices and reputation. This is particularly important under the new Modern Slavery Act 2018, which addresses responsibility throughout the supply chain,” said Mr Rogers.

The Alliance is also seeking greater integration between ethical auditing programs to reduce duplication and cost associated with multiple audits, record keeping requirements and compliance criteria.

“While farmers are working to meet all requirements, it is also essential that consistent regulation and certification of labour hire companies is implemented. This will make sure all industry players are meeting the required standards. It should be accompanied by an increase in the number of approved third-party auditors to ensure compliance” said Mr Rogers.

The release of the workforce data and position on ethical sourcing demonstrates the commitment of the Alliance to work with industry and government to provide a sustainable workforce for the fresh produce industry.

For more information:
Australian Fresh Produce Alliance

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