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Fair Work to target Orchards

The Fair Work Ombudsman will make site visits to dozens of apple and pear orchards across three States over the next few weeks as part of its ongoing focus on seasonal workers.

Fair Work inspectors are planning unannounced visits to properties in NSW, Victoria and Western Australia to speak with growers and labour hire contractors about their obligations under federal workplace laws.

Seasonal workers engaged to pick and pack the fruit will also be encouraged to ask any questions they have about their pay and conditions.

Site visits are planned for Harcourt, the Goulburn Valley and Gippsland in regional Victoria, Donnybrook and Manjimup in Western Australia's South-West and Batlow in NSW.

Fair Work Ombudsman Natalie James says  non-compliance that may be identified will be addressed.

"We can tell a lot about an employer's level of compliance by talking to them and their workers, but we'll look at time-and-wages records if we need to get a clearer picture," Ms James said.

Ms James says the Agency continues to receive complaints from seasonal harvest workers that they are underpaid, and many are substantiated.

  • > Common issues of non-compliance in the apple and pear industry include:
  • > Underpayment of minimum hourly rates under the Horticulture Award 2010,
  • > Failure to make written piece-work agreements with employees on piece-rates,
  • > Failing to provide piece-rate employees with a copy of their agreement,
  • > Failure to keep time-and-wages records, particularly for casual employees,
  • > Failure to provide the Fair Work Information Statement to new employees, and
  • > Detailed pay slips not being provided within one day of pay day.

Ms James says Fair Work inspectors will return to orchards during next year's harvest to check that employers are meeting their workplace obligations on an ongoing basis.

"We want to ensure employers understand and meet their workplace obligations" she said.

Source: Fair Work Ombudsman Media Release 23 May 2014

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