The Fair Work Commission’s (FWC) decision to provide growers with only two weeks to implement changes to the Horticulture Award has surprised industry and will force small- and medium-sized businesses to rush changes, which could lead to mistakes and accidental non-compliance.
The FWC decided that fruit and vegetable growers had until 15 April 2019 to ensure they were implementing the changes to the Horticulture Award so that casual workers would receive overtime rates if they work overnight or where the employees work more than 12 hours per day or 304 hours over eight weeks.
The FWC decided that casual employees working in the horticulture sector must receive overtime in 2017.
AUSVEG, Australia’s industry body for the country’s vegetable and potato growers, has been working with the National Farmers’ Federation, the unions and other horticulture industry groups to endeavour to minimise the impact on growers.
AUSVEG CEO James Whiteside said that while the decision would leave some growers at risk, the more pressing concern is the time they have been given to implement these changes.
“Fourteen days to implement these changes is not enough time for growers, many of whom will be in the middle of their busiest harvest for the year, to enact these changes,” said Mr Whiteside.
“The majority of growers in the industry are small- or medium-sized businesses that will be hard pressed to implement these changes by 15 April (2019), which could leave them and their workers exposed.”
“The horticulture industry has been working constructively with the FWC, unions and other parties to ensure that workers are treated fairly in our industry and the implementation of the changes to the Horticulture Award did not adversely affect growers and their workers.”
“The industry already has issues with finding workers to pick and harvest crops – this decision and the quickfire implementation period will only exacerbate the problem in the short-term and could lead to further issues with finding workers in the long-term.”
“We will of course take every step to ensure our members are compliant with the Horticulture Award, but to be forced to rush the implementation of these changes in a fortnight is quite unreasonable.”