By Growcom CEO David Thomson
One month after the Fair Work Commission made changes to the Horticulture Award growers in Queensland are still reeling from the serious impacts on their farming businesses.
The Commission put intense pressure on an industry already plagued by workforce crisis when they gave farmers just two weeks to introduce overtime provisions for casual workers.
Industry’s push for a staggered transition period to allow time for growers to absorb the financial impact was ultimately ignored and the changes to the Award commenced on 15 April.
For the last two months, Growcom has been working through the implications for our grower members on how they conduct their business and manage their workforce.
Without adequate support, many growers have struggled to manage and meet the overwhelming costs of keeping casual staff, with significant impacts on employer and employee alike.
Some growers have been forced to consider their future in farming. Other growers have had to manage the hours of their best employees because they can’t afford the overtime.
Casual employees in horticulture have historically made hay while the sun shines, working longer hours during harvest seasons before taking an extended break. These latest changes to the Award have limited workers’ choices and made the industry a less attractive employment option.
At its latest meeting, the Queensland Horticulture Council (QHC) discussed how the changes are having widespread impacts to all fruit and vegetable growing regions across the state.
The QHC is made up of fourteen key voices in horticulture from a range of grower groups.
In the coming weeks, Growcom will be coordinating with fellow state and national farming bodies to develop a clearer picture of the exact impact this change has made.
Growcom is particularly interested in gathering insights from growers on how changes to the Award have influenced their practice and how industry can work together to best represent their needs.
Out of all the agricultural industries, horticulture relies most heavily on casual and seasonal workforces to survive and thrive. Pickers and packers in the fields and packing sheds are the backbone of day to day production.
To ensure all Australians can afford to enjoy fresh fruit, vegetables and nuts for years to come, we ask that the new Morrison Government take note of our growers and work with them to build sustainable workforces.