Picker pay censure

A NEW hourly wage deal struck by the Fair Work Commission will make it more difficult for people to work part-time fruit picking, says Tasmanian fruit industry peak bodies.

Primary Employers Tasmania has joined with Fruit Growers Tasmania in expressing their disappointment in the decision to place the minimum hourly rate on productivity that will make it harder for growers.

The Australian Workers’ Union historic industrial push to amend the Horticulture Award now guarantees every worker on every farm is entitled to take home the minimum casual rate of pay, currently $25.41 per hour.

“We are disappointed in the decision,” PET executive officer Andrew Cameron said.
“It will cause problems in Tasmania, already there is a shortage of workers, under-productive workers who were satisfied to work part-time for piece rate, will not be engaged because they will be paid a set hourly rate for an average competent picker piece rate provided a good income,” he said.

FGT chief executive Peter Cornish did not believe there was evidence of workers on piece rates not earning what they should in Tasmania and did not agree with the findings.

“The decision is lazy, we missed a good opportunity to tweak the system and make it good for all concerned, instead this adds more oversight, more administration, it’s impractical and illogical.”

AWU National Secretary Daniel Walton said it was one of the most significant industrial decisions of modern times.

“Now it will be easy for workers — even if they don’t have good English language skills or Australian connections – to understand if they’re being ripped off.
“From now on if you’re making less than $25 an hour fruit picking in Australia your boss is breaking the law and stealing from you.”