Shepparton migrant workers to receive $50,000

North East & Goulburn-Murray Farmer

A LABOR hire company will change the way it pays its workforce after a Fair Work Ombudsman investigation found it had failed to correctly compensate tomato pickers on a farm near Shepparton for their work.

Agri-Labour Australia Pty Ltd has signed a Court-Enforceable Undertaking (EU) requiring it to pay $50,823 to 19 nationals of Vanuatu it employed under the Seasonal Worker Programme between December 2017 and April last year.

Fair Work Inspectors found that Agri-Labour was paying some workers a group piecework rate, based around a team’s quantity picked, despite the company’s enterprise agreement and piecework agreements providing for workers to be paid based on their individual productivity.

Agri-Labour admitted it could not determine if the amounts paid sufficiently compensated the workers as no records were kept of actual hours worked.

It also admitted to incorrectly deducting money from wages for wet weather gear and making higher deductions than those authorised in writing.

Under the EU, Agri-Labour must pay pieceworkers based on individual productivity; keep a record of hours worked for each pieceworker; engage an external professional to complete two audits of the pay and conditions of employees; and commission workplace relations training for all persons who have responsibility for human resources, recruitment, on-site management and payroll functions.

Agri-Labour must ensure the piece rates paid are sufficient to allow an average competent employee to earn 15 per cent more than the minimum hourly rates provided by the enterprise agreement.

In addition to compensating its workers, with the largest individual payment of $4,591, Agri-Labour will make a $15,000 contrition payment to the Commonwealth Government Consolidated Revenue Fund.

More farming news and stories can be read in the May, 2019 print edition of North East & Goulburn-Murray Farmer or click here to access digital editions.