Push for reform in horticulture
A BUNDABERG lawyer has called for a national spotlight to shine on Bundaberg's horticultural industry, after a Fair Work Ombudsman investigation found the region was rife with non-compliance.
In a letter to the NewsMail editor, Maurice Blackburn Lawyers associate Juliet Parsons said she was concerned at the audit's findings of widespread non-compliance with workplace laws in the Wide Bay horticultural industry.
"I was concerned that ... farms, labour hire contractors and accommodation providers in the Wide Bay region have recently been targeted for investigation by the Fair Work Ombudsman ... for potential minimum wage and conditions and labour hire and supply chain breaches.”
The Fair Work Ombudsman audit wrapped up last week, after investigating about 40 businesses in the Wide Bay region.
Iinspectors requested time and wage records and completed interviews with growers, contractors and employees.
Acting Fair Work Ombudsman Michael Campbell said:
"We know the region is attractive to visa holders who can be vulnerable in the workplace due to concerns about their visa status or limited knowledge of workplace laws,” Mr Campbell said.
"If we find non-compliance in the businesses we audit, we will ensure affected employees receive the wages and entitlements owed to them. Where serious or repeat breaches are found we will consider further enforcement action.”
Ms Parsons in her letter voiced concern for workers coming from across the world.
"The 2017 National Temporary Migrant Worker Survey revealed that around 30 per cent of migrant workers continue to suffer wage theft in Australia,” she said.
"This investigation once again highlights the need for a national approach to labour hire licencing, the proper resourcing of the Fair Work Ombudsman and a reduction in the number of legal hurdles to unions entering workplaces to help protect some of our most vulnerable workers from exploitation.”