Do you know minimum wage for casual pickers?
The Fair Work Ombudsman has urged horticulture businesses to be vigilant when engaging workers from labour-hire operators this harvest season by making themselves aware of the minimum rates of pay for casual pickers under the Horticulture Award.
“This season, I want to remind business operators who employ backpackers that they should be wary of ‘offers’ of labour from labour-hire providers who turn up at their properties offering to supply workers,” Fair Work Ombudsman Natalie James said.
Workers that are engaged on piece rates must be provided with a piecework agreement in writing that is set at a rate that would allow an average competent worker to pick enough to earn 15 per cent above the hourly minimum.
The Fair Work Ombudsman fully recognises the importance of piece rate arrangements to the Horticulture Sector. When used lawfully, piece rates can provide significant benefits to both growers and workers.
However, some labour-hire operators set piece rates so low that is not possible for workers to pick or pack enough fruit to earn the minimum hourly rate.
“As one can reasonably assume the labour hire provider is taking a cut of the agreement with the grower, the question growers need to ask is ‘how much are the workers receiving’?”
Fair Work Ombudsman Natalie James encouraged business operators to contact the agency if they receive offers of labour at suspiciously low rates.
“Growers should ensure that people working on their farms, whether directly employed or via a labour-hire provider, are receiving their correct entitlements,” Ms James said.
“Growers who enter into contracts with unscrupulous labour-hire companies can be held liable, as an accessory under the Fair Work Act, if they knowingly enter into sub-standard and illegal arrangements.”
“If growers are approached by a labour-hire provider with rates that seem to be too good to be true, they probably are,” Ms James said.
To assist growers, the NFF has developed a contract template for short form labour hire (click here) while Growcom can also help growers determine the correct wages (click here).