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AU: Expanded labour options, but some new laws too

A lot has changed on the labour front since last harvest. Rob Hayes, Victorian State Manager of the National Harvest Labour Information Service (NHLIS) provides an update on changes to labour law, labour-hire licensing and visa flexibility and a word of advice to growers to take care they know and comply with newly-introduced laws.

The last few months have seen many changes to the way harvest labour can be sourced and paid. Most of this is good for growers with several programs expanded, new ones introduced and some red tape removed, however other changes will mean growers need to remain vigilant and make sure they comply with some newly introduced laws.

A brief summary of some of the changes either proposed or underway follows:

Horticulture Award changes are on the way
The lengthy process to review the conditions of the Horticulture Award is getting closer to completion, with draft determinations recently released by the Fair Work Commission. The main areas likely to impact horticulture producers are the inclusion of overtime provisions for casuals and introduction of a minimum two hour engagement for casual workers. At this stage it seems that piece rate workers will not be subject to overtime payments but this will not be clarified until the final determination is made and at this stage it is now known when the new award conditions will be enacted.

Labour hire licensing update
Labour hire licensing laws are in different stages of implementation in the three states that had indicated they were going to implement them. A brief summary for each state follows:

Changes to Seasonal Worker Program
The Seasonal Worker Program which allows workers from a number of Pacific Islands as well as PNG and Timor-Leste is growing rapidly and these workers now make up a large portion of some businesses seasonal labour (Figure 1), and indications are that over 8,000 visas were granted in 2017/18. The main reason for the popularity of this program is the high work ethic and the ability to get the same workers back year after year.

To make this program even more attractive for growers, the Commonwealth Government recently announced a number of changes.

Working Holidaymakers – major changes underway
Working Holiday Makers, or Backpackers, are critical to getting fruit and vegetables harvested in Australia and any reduction or increase in the number or these workers available or changes to the countries they come from can have major implications for growers.



For more information:
Harvest Trail
Tel: +61 1800 062 332

Publication date : 1/9/2019