Australian consumers will probably see the cost-of-living pressure worsen from today as pay changes on farms across the country have the potential to make fruit and vegetables more expensive. It is the first day of a new wage structure for workers in the horticulture industry, marking one of the most significant changes ever for Australian agriculture.
Under the new rules, workers picking or packing produce by piece rate — that is, getting paid by how much they harvest — now have a guaranteed minimum rate of pay. This follows the ruling by the Fair Work Commission late last year, which many farm groups rallied against, saying it would dis-incentivize productive workers.
Chief executive of Fruit Growers Tasmania, Peter Cornish, said while a minimum pay guarantee was "a good thing" and much work had been done in the lead up to the new system to ensure farms complied, it was "likely" to increase produce prices at the supermarket. Cornish said: "There will be higher cost pressures. Whether that transfers into [sale] prices or not is another matter, but there will be a pressure on that for sure.”