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Piecework Rates in Australia

Piecework Rates in Australia


Piecework Rates in Australia

In today’s times, there are a lot of negative speculations around the salaries and conditions for horticultural workers. Hence, a great amount of attention is paid to the piecework provisions of the Horticulture Award. It has to be acknowledged that wages based on productivity have always been a part of the horticultural world. Even though it may seem that $3000 a week is out of reach for piecework workers, it can be seen that skilled labourers are paid high salaries for their contribution.

The Horticulture Award chalks out how piecework ought to be calculated and it also implies a piecework loading of 15% which applies to both permanent and casual wages. There is also a template agreement, which every employee undertaking piecework must sign. Furthermore, the agreement must include the unit rate, make allowance and if applicable the casual loading.

However, there are a few problems when it comes to this application:

  1. The employers are decreasing the pick rate and hence the majority of workers are not able to reach the piecework hourly rate.
  2. The back-end calculation of the rate is at times far from what it is supposed to be.

In both these cases, there is a bit of a problem that can be witnessed. When the unit rate is extremely low, the likelihood of breaching the award provisions through underpayment is greater. When there is a larger proportion of workers earning less than the piecework rate, there appears to be a problem with the unit rate.

Both of these scenarios breach the Piecework Award. These arrangements can only be classified as individual groupings; not collective or group arrangements. While “bin rates” are still used in some industries, they are clearly not provided for in the Award provisions and growers must ensure each piecework employee has an individual agreement in place.