By Growcom CEO David Thomson

On 15 April 2019 changes to the Horticulture Award came into effect which made it harder for farmers to keep their loyal casual workers.

This included alterations to ordinary hours of work, night loading and overtime entitlements that left many growers struggling to meet the increasing costs of employing pickers and packers.

The changes also made casual employment less stable and less rewarding for long-standing and valued workers, many of whom left the industry. Those who were once drawn to horticulture on the promise of long hours over a short season so they could then go holidaying were stripped of an attractive opportunity.

For several months now, Growcom has been working through the implications for our grower-members on how they conduct their business and manage their workforce.

We have also been coordinating with regional Queensland grower groups and fellow farming bodies interstate to develop a clear picture of the exact impact these changes have made.

With the support of the Queensland Horticulture Council we have designed a National Survey to better capture the changes farmers have made to their employment practices as a result of the Award changes.

We encourage all affected farmers across Australia to complete this survey to give industry representatives the evidence they need to advocate for future changes to the Horticulture Award.

If you’re a grower and are experiencing pain with the Horticulture Award, this is your chance to have your say. It is a short survey that takes no more than five minutes to finish. Unless you state otherwise, your responses will remain strictly anonymous.

The Horticulture Award National Survey can be found here:  https://t.co/1wR5ob5KjE?amp=1

Completing this survey is essential to building our case, but so is telling our stories. We encourage growers to join the conversation online on Facebook or Twitter by sharing their experiences on how changes to the Award have impacted their business using the hashtag #HortAwardNationalSurvey.

Unfortunately the changes to the Award are just one more challenge growers are facing right now to secure an adequate supply of reliable labour.

As demand for casual workers picks up leading into summer, we ask that agencies across the Australian and Queensland governments dedicate themselves to working closely with industry and ensure our fresh produce industry has a sustainable and skilled workforce.

The Horticulture Award National Survey has been developed and distributed by Growcom in collaboration with Queensland Horticulture Council members the Bowen Gumlu Growers Association, FNQ Growers, Bundaberg Fruit and Vegetable Growers, Granite Belt Growers, Gayndah Fruitgrowers and Lockyer Valley Growers, and also with interstate bodies AUSVEG, NSW Farmers, NT Farmers, Tasmanian Farmers and Graziers Association, National Farmers’ Federation, vegetablesWA and Victorian Farmers Federation.