Fair Farms Initiative reaches grower-employers across Australia
Help for growers around employment practices
Seminars and workshops available
Potential voluntary industry-driven certification scheme
Launched in May 2017, the four-year Initiative fosters good employment practices across the Australian horticulture industry.
The initiative is part of an industry response to negative stories of underpaid or mistreated farm workers in the media.
While most growers endeavour to do the right thing, understanding and complying with complex legal requirements can be difficult. The Fair Farms Initiative supports horticulture employers in their knowledge and application of Fair Work laws through seminars that are being rolled out across Australia.
“Our initiative is about lifting the standard of employment practices across the Australian horticulture industry to ensure that workers are treated fairly while they are employed on horticulture farms and pack houses,” said Jane Muller, Project Manager for the Fair Farms Initiative.
Since its launch, seminars and workshops for horticulture employers have been held in Stanthorpe (QLD), Adelaide, Darwin, Katherine and Kuunurra, attracting groups of between 10 and 50 growers. The Fair Farms team also presented at the Gayndah post-season in November 2017.
The interactive sessions range between two and four hours and cover a business risk assessment against Fair Work requirements, practical ways for farm businesses to achieve compliance, tips for managing tricky issues such as poor performance, and how to work effectively with labour hire companies.
“The response to the seminars has been really positive. We’ve heard from growers that the information is very targeted and helps them to determine where their strengths are and where the gaps lie in their record-keeping and employment processes,” said Jane.
Growers in Western Australia have the opportunity to attend a Fair Farms seminar soon, with sessions planned around Perth and the south-west between 21-25 May. Employers who are interested in building confidence and efficiency around employment practices and record keeping are encouraged to attend.
The Fair Farms team is also looking at a potential voluntary industry-driven certification scheme for good employment practices in horticulture. The scheme is currently in its pilot stage, with further developments expected in the middle of the year.
“The critical thing at this stage is managing and building the reputation of the industry when it comes to employment practice. There’s more and more pressure from retailers and consumers around this issue. If the industry doesn’t take the first step, then someone else will,” said Jane.
“Horticulture is very reliant on harvest labour. If we continue to build a positive reputation as an industry, we can expand our pool of labour. We need to showcase that we are a good industry to work in, that you will be paid and treated properly. We should also aim to demonstrate that there are career pathways and opportunities in horticulture.”
As well as the seminars and certification scheme, the Fair Farms Initiative is working on other activities to recognise and promote good employers. A national award to showcase horticulture employers who maintain excellent employment policies and practices will be established in 2019.
The Initiative is coordinated by Growcom and funded through the Fair Work Ombudsman. Freshcare and DLM Consulting (Horticulture workplace relations specialist, Donna Mogg) are project delivery partners. Growcom works closely with national commodity organisations to ensure the Initiative addresses industry needs.
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