As harvest season begins backpackers urged to make sure they know their rights

by Ray Clancy on December 18, 2017

in Jobs in Australia

The Fair Work Ombudsman in Australia has issued a series of tips for backpackers and seasonal workers to help them understand their workplace rights and obligations while working on farms.

As part of a three-year campaign to highlight the rights of people working in what is known as the harvest trail, covering everything from tomatoes on Northern Queensland to strawberries in Victoria and cucumbers in Western Australia, the aim is to make sure overseas workers are not underpaid or exploited.

Farm Work

(budabarl/Bigstock.com)

In the next few months officials will be visiting and revisiting growing regions to highlight the pitfalls. The FWO says that if a job advert sounds too good to be true, then it probably is. It says those seeking work should take the time to find an ethical and legitimate provider that pays correctly and doesn’t try to take advantage.

Backpackers are advised not to enter into work arrangements with people who meet them at regional airports or bus depots and make promises of guaranteed work picking fruit or vegetables, along with accommodation and transport.

They are also advised not to respond to questionable adverts where there is only a first name and a mobile phone number provided. Legitimate providers will advertise for workers through more formal media such as newspapers or agencies. The FWO suggests asking for the business name and Australian Business Number (ABN).

It highlights that for picking fruit or vegetables, or pruning, worker should be paid at least $22.86 an hour if they are working on a casual hourly basis. A piece work agreement has to allow the average competent employee to earn at least 15% more per hour than the relevant minimum hourly rate which works out at $25.60 for a casual employee.

Workers are also advised to keep a diary of hours worked, places where the work is done and the type of work being done. The FWO points out that growers rely on backpackers and seasonal workers to harvest their crops and they should treat them well.

Every year seasonal harvest workers follow the Harvest Trail of ripening fruit, vegetables and other crops around Australia. From January grape picking in the Hunter Valley to autumn apples in Tasmania, October mangoes in the Northern Territory and cherries at Christmas time.

The horticulture and viticulture industries employ many travellers and seasoned harvesters but the FWO’s experience of working with employers and employees in the horticulture industry has shown there is often confusion about employer obligations, including how to use piece rate agreements. There can be a lack of understanding about grower’s obligations when using a labour hire service.

‘Our campaign isn’t just about auditing growers. We want to find out what’s happening out there and what problems growers face when dealing with workplace laws,’ said a FWO spokesman.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Romy c. Gorosoe December 18, 2017 at 7:47 pm

Can u give more information regarding for this…matter…

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