By Growcom CEO David Thomson

The Fair Work Commission’s decision to give farmers just two weeks to introduce overtime provisions for casual workers has placed unfair pressure on an industry suffering from workforce crisis.

The changes to the Horticulture Award, commencing on 15 April 2019, have been heavily debated between industry bodies and unions ever since they were first proposed in 2014.

Growcom with the support of the NFF and the Voice of Horticulture has been advocating on behalf of farmers for over four years to minimise the impact these changes will have on production horticulture.

Our industry’s peak bodies worked with the Australian Workers Union and National Union of Workers to develop a framework for the decision to minimise its impact on farmers.

On 30 August 2018, the Commission released a draft determination which was a conciliated review of the Award. While it wasn’t our intended outcome, it could have been worse.

The Commission has formally adopted this arrangement but has unfairly allowed a mere fortnight to implement its changes.

The short implementation period shows a great misunderstanding of small businesses operate, disadvantaging farmers who are left to face the affects these changes will have on how they conduct their business and manage their workforce.

Growcom argues, while growers are legally obliged to comply, the rush to do so could lead to misunderstandings and instances of unintentional non-compliance.

On top of this, the changes aren’t straight-forward. Determining whether a worker is entitled to overtime requires complex calculations and hours of work of which growers are at a loss.

Growcom is working through the implications for our grower members who employ under the Award or are waiting for their enterprise agreement to be assessed.

In the meantime, we urge all growers to contact their payroll software company and have adjustments made to assist in managing their casual employees’ hours.

We join the NFF in imploring the Commission to guarantee it will not prosecute farmers for non-compliance, for a period of 12 months after the implementation date.