What are the pay changes in horticulture?

The Fair Work Commission has proposed important changes to the Horticulture Award. The Horticulture Award sets out the standards, conditions and minimum pay rates for farm workers in the horticulture industry – workers who pick fruit or vegetables. The draft determination would change the piece rates in the Horticulture Award by inserting a minimum wage floor and time recording provisions.

What is the minimum wage floor?

The minimum wage floor is a pay rate which you cannot be paid below. If you are casual worker it would be set at $25.41 per hour. You can still earn more than this if your workplace agreement sets a higher pay rate or you pick enough fruit and vegetable in your piece rate to exceed the minimum wage floor. However, you cannot earn less than the minimum wage floor under any circumstances, even if you have agreed to work for a piece rate.

Who does this affect?

Farm workers who are paid on piece rates. A piece rate is where you get paid for how much fruit or vegetables you pick. For example, a worker is paid $5 for every 100kg of oranges they pick. 

What are the time recording provisions?

Your employer would be required to record how many hours you work in a piecework record which you receive a copy of. This record would indicate your minimum wage floor.

Why/how did this happen? Why did the Fair Work Commission do this? 

For several years there have been reports that farm workers on piece rates were earning as little as $9 a day picking fruit or vegetables on Australian farms. The Australian Workers Union lodged a case with the Fair Work Commission to stop this. The United Workers Union and Unions NSW supported this case. The Australian Workers Union argued that the reason workers were paid so little is because of how piece rates are designed and function. The union argued that every worker should be guaranteed a minimum hourly wage. The Fair Work Commission agreed and released its draft determination to insert a minimum wage floor into the piece rate provisions of the Horticulture Award. 

When do the changes come into effect?

The decision is a draft determination. The Fair Work Commission has now opened time for submissions in reply. Submissions will have to be received by Friday 10 December 2021. After the submissions are recieved, Fair Work will consider the submissions and make a final determination. Businesses may put in a submission against the draft determination and the Fair Work Commission will have to review these submissions. A final decision is expected in late December or early 2022. Minor changes may be made, but it highly unlikely the Fair Work Commission will change its decision. In the final determination the Fair Work Commission will say exactly what day and month the minimum wage floor comes into operation.

I’m a farm worker on piece rates, what should I do? 

The best way to ensure you are protected and paid properly at work is to join your union. You can join using this form or the fill out the form on this page to receive a call to discuss your options. Joining your union will help you in two ways. First, it means you get expert advice and free legal representation if your employer doesn’t pay you properly. This include complimentary visa advice and assistance with any visa or immigration problems. Second, it will help the union run a case like this at Fair Work or negotiate with employers to improve safety, wages or conditions. Join your union here to ensure you are protected with the minimum wage floor.

I’m on a temporary visa, how am I affected? 

The proposed minimum wage floor applies to all workers in horticulture, including workers on visas. However, some employers may try to exploit temporary visa holders. This is why unions created Visa Assist, which provides free visa advise and assistance. To access Visa Assist join your union here or the fill out the form on this page to receive a call to discuss your options.

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