Article by: Hari Yellina (Orchard Tech)
Citrus Australia has addressed significant flaws in the recent Fair Work Commission decision to install a floor price for workers under the Horticulture Award through an official submission. The submission includes an alternative variation, which attempts to provide a safety net for inexperienced workers and an incentive for increased productivity – which is the core tenant of the piece rate. Citrus Australia finds any exploitation of employees to be abhorrent. Therefore, it is disappointing that the decisions taken by the Fair Work Commission (Commission) will have no impact on reducing exploitation, whilst creating numerous detrimental effects on both productivity and costs within the wider horticulture industry.
It is doubtful based on the reading of this decision that the Commission has any relative experience or deep knowledge of horticulture production, itinerant work, or regional employment. The Commission’s variations will not reduce exploitation in the horticulture industry where it exists, because those who exploit their employees, don’t adhere to the law. It is a known fact that horticultural crops are perishable and require efficient, productive employees to harvest them in a timely manner to meet orders, avoid environmental impacts, and prevent food waste.
The piece-rate was designed to encourage and reward productivity within the workforce and increase efficiencies within a unique production system. Citrus Australia has asked for a delay in the implementation of the draft variation, to ensure the transition can be thoroughly considered for the benefit of all parties. Under the change, costs will rise for businesses through increased investment in additional staff for management and supervisory roles, investment in staff management technology and from paying hourly rates for poorly performing inexperienced staff, and through a predicted drop off in productivity.