By Growcom CEO, David Thomson
Peak body for horticulture in Queensland, Growcom last year launched and led a national survey to capture the changes growers have made to their employment practices as a result of amendments to the Horticulture Award which came into effect on 15 April 2019.
More than 230 growers employing over 11,500 workers have since responded to the survey and reported significant impacts caused by changes to the Award, including on how they conduct their business and manage their workforce.
Nearly 90 per cent of growers reported managing staff hours in order to limit the accumulation of overtime, and 60 per cent of growers have had casual employees chose to end their employment due to changes in their hours.
And the link between these two impacts is clear. Growers unable to afford overtime rates are, naturally enough, attempting to limit overtime hours. So workers in response are walking away from our industry because they can no longer earn the cash they could before in the same amount of time.
This wouldn’t all be quite so tragic if the Fair Work Commission in making this decision was unaware of the flow on effects of these changes. But they were.
Told by industry what disruption and dislocation would be caused not just to growers but importantly to workers too, they followed through on introducing overtime rates and other changes all in the name of “modernising” the Horticulture Award.
Let’s be clear. There’s nothing “modern” about imposing the same employment conditions across the country without regard to the work itself and the fundamentals of an industry.
Rural industries are not backward. We do not belong to the past. We are modern, but we are also seasonal. Our crops are seasonal and our people are seasonal too.
The Fair Work Commission is denying the people in our industry the freedom and choice of working longer hours during peak season with the prospect of taking a longer, well-earned break when it suited them.
Growcom, together with peak industry bodies around the country, will be considering how best to use the results of the national survey as the evidence our industry needs to advocate for future changes to the Award. We continue to seek more responses to the survey. Growers can complete it here: https://bit.ly/2vnEvT6