Fair Work Commission increases casual rates in horticulture

A Fair Work Commission ruling has found that casual workers in Australian horticulture who work over 38 hours a week will receive overtime. The ruling also implements penalties for working shifts longer than 12 hours.

Farmers have raised concerns that the changes will “send some farmers broke”, as well as fears surrounding the short timeline for implementation “without a lot of clarity”. Gavin Scurr of Piñata Farms highlighted that many farms will “limit workers to 38 hours and put on more people”. “We just can't afford to pay any more overtime than we have to," he said. He also stressed that “[farmers] will lose workers...as in people will stop coming to Australia because they can't get enough work or are not allowed to work enough hours to get enough dollars under this ruling.”

Many have also highlighted that the ruling will lead to an increase in the price of fruit and vegetables, with Scurr adding that "unless that cost gets passed onto the consumer, then farmers will go broke”.

Vic Grozotis, a farmer from Western Australia said that he will have to resort to “[getting] the crop off in the minimum amount of time and then get rid of [the workers]”. He also said that he is looking at robotic technology, as well as hiring kids in the school holidays in order to avoid high labor costs. Younger workers are paid at a lower rate and do not need to be paid superannuation.

In contrast to the concerns of farmers, the Australian Manufacturing Workers' Union welcomes the decision, with representative Lloyd Pumpa stating that "An increase in wages will flow on through the economy, the backpackers will spend that money here”.

“We're making sure that people have an adequate living wage when they do these sorts of jobs...I don't think these are easy jobs at all,” he said.

Sonja Duncan