The Fair Work Ombudsman's (FWO) three year investigation leading to the Harvest Trail Inquiry report is due to be released later in the year, but the some details have been revealed in Australian media.
Jennifer Crook from the FWO a leader in the watchdog's regional services team, said "In some cases the FWO encountered situations where a person is virtually bonded like a slave to a particular [labour hire] provider”
The most common issue raised throughout the investigation centred around piece rates, where workers were paid based on how much fruit they picked. Lack of contracts with agreed rates of pay for work is a major issue.
Other key issues:
payments were often made off the books, payslips were not issued and record keeping was inadequate.
Multiple layers of contractors and sub-contracted labour hire companies
Australian farmers highly reliant of foreign laborers, particularly with seasonal work.
‘Honest’ farmers are being undermined by ones using cheap, off the books labour.