Blueberry farmer faces court on employment allegations

A BLUEBERRY farmer who employed dozens of overseas backpackers to pick his crop is to face court for alleged serious record-keeping failures.

Fair Work Ombudsman inspectors discovered the farmer only kept a record of the workers' first names and how many buckets they picked.

The alleged contraventions were identified during a spot check of the NSW Mid-North Coast property in November.

The Sandy Beach farmer is to face the Federal Circuit Court in Sydney following legal proceedings initiated by the ombudsman.

Fair Work inspectors randomly audited the man's blueberry farm as part of the agency's three-year Harvest Trail project.

Most of the fruit-pickers were young overseas backpackers in Australia on the 417 working holiday visa.

The majority had taken seasonal jobs in order to qualify for a 12-month extension to their visa.

Fair Work inspectors allege that the only record for 60 employees was a day book with the worker's first name and the tally of buckets picked.

The ombudsman also alleges the farmer did not issue employees with pay-slips within one day of being paid, as required by workplace law, and failed to have written piecework agreements in place for employees who were paid per-bucket.

The man faces a maximum penalty of up to $10,200 for failing to have written piecework agreements in place.

He also faces a maximum penalty of $5100 each for three other alleged contraventions relating to record-keeping and pay-slips.



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