The Harvest Trail Inquiry released this week, provides valuable insights into the mistreatment of workers in Australia’s horticulture sector.
Carried out by the Fair Work Ombudsman and taking five years to complete, the report was welcomed by the National Farmers’ Federation.
NFF CEO Tony Mahar said the Inquiry made for salient and often difficult reading but unfortunately, did not come as a surprise.
“The NFF has never shied away from what are frankly, too many instances of worker mistreatment and non-compliance within our industry.
“The Harvest Trail Inquiry will provide a much-needed opportunity for these problems to be ventilated and importantly, for work to continue on developing solutions.”
AUSVEG, the peak body representing Australian vegetables, also welcomed the report.
“We categorically condemn the mistreatment of farm workers in any form and this type of behaviour has no place in the horticulture industry,” Chair and Gippsland vegetable grower Bill Bulmer said.
“As an industry we have identified that this is an issue and are working with government, growers, unions, retailers and others in the supply chain to find a workable solution that protects workers and stamps out mistreatment once and for all.”
Mr Mahar said the NFF, with members of the Horticulture Council such as AUSVEG, would also continue to advocate for change.
We have been on the front foot in raising industry’s problems in regards to worker exploitation and non-compliance with the Parliament.
“Equally, we have drawn to the attention of the Government, Opposition and crossbenchers, the dire labour shortage farm businesses are facing.
“Farmers experience severe labour deficits all year round but particularly at harvest. It is clear that the current regime isn’t meeting the needs of farm employers or workers.
“Some farm employers, unfortunately feel they have no choice but to operate outside the rules. This is not acceptable and must not be allowed to happen.
Mr Mahar said the NFF welcomed recent improvements by the Government to bolster the capacity of the Fair Work Ombudsman to deal with allegations of exploitation and to appoint an Industry Workforce Coordinator.
“The NFF unreservedly accepts, as the Inquiry suggests, that there are significant workplace compliance issues in the horticulture workforce.
“The Harvest Trail Report provides the ideal platform to continue having the necessary conversations and ultimately, to taking the positive action required,” Mr Mahar said.