By Growcom CEO Stephen Barnard
The only reason why many of us in our jobs, mine included, continue to get paid an hourly rate is because no fair, equitable and easy way has been found to measure our output.
If you care to stop to think about it, paying workers according to their output is the fairest way of remuneration.
Imagine as a grower getting paid the same for a box of fruit regardless of whether it was full or half empty. Chaos would ensue. Disputes would erupt with buyers who would need to turn to other means of getting better value.
It happens that in horticulture we’re often able to easily devise fair and equitable ways of paying for output, commonly called piece rate work. That is, you’re paid per piece, however that’s defined.
Piece rates are often used in fruit industries, for those picking grapes, apples and oranges for example. Piece rates give workers choice and autonomy, to work as hard or as slow as they like at any given time. Piece rates also ensure employers get a result that’s consistent with the wages they pay.
The Australian Workers Union in their infinite wisdom and desire to remain relevant, have applied to the Fair Work Commission to install a floor in piece rates, meaning regardless how slow you work you’ll be guaranteed the same minimum casual hourly rate that’s in the Horticulture Award.
The union says it’ll mean a win-win, we all know it won’t.
Growers will sooner stop paying piece rates altogether, to the detriment of those keen to earn a quid, than attempt to manage all the underperformance of those happy to skive off.
We also hasten to add, the Award currently requires the average competent worker on piece rates earn 15 percent more than the minimum casual hourly rate. If a floor is added employers are quite rightly likely to argue that this loading be removed, which would be another big loss for motivated workers around the country.
The success of our defence of the current piece work provisions within the Award will rely on what firsthand experience and testimony we can present, from both employers and employees.
If you’re a grower who uses piece rates, or if you’re a worker who relies on piece rates to make good money, and are willing to talk about your experience then please urgently reach out this week to Growcom through our Manager of Policy and Advocacy Richard Shannon at firstname.lastname@example.org. You’re also encouraged to fill out this survey run by the National Farmers’ Federation.