Australian Fair Work Commission rules that farm workers on piece rate entitled to minimum wage
November 6, 2021, 1:00:02 CET | Wikinews

Friday, November 5, 2021 

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Strawberries in picking season at a Queensland farm.Image: User:Kgbo.
Australia's Fair Work Commission determined on Tuesday that farm workers being paid a piece rate are required to be paid the minimum rate for casual workers under the Horticulture Award, which is currently A$25.41 per hour. Workers employed on a piece rate are paid for each "piece" of fruit and vegetables harvested.

In their ruling, the Commission unanimously "expressed the view that the existing pieceworker provisions in the Horticulture Award are not fit for purpose", and determined that "the insertion of a minimum wage floor in clause 15.2 is necessary to ensure that the Horticulture Award achieves the minimum wages objective". Clause 15.2 is the section of the Horticulture Award that concerns the rate of pay for piece rate workers.

The Australian Workers' Union (AWU) lodged an application with the Commission on December 15, 2020, seeking to ensure that every farm worker was paid at least the minimum wage under the Horticulture Award.

After the ruling, AWU secretary Dan Walton told ABC News, "Too many farmers have been able to manipulate the piece rate system to establish pay and conditions far beneath Australian standards. Now it will be easy for workers — even if they don't have good English language skills or Australian connections — to understand if they're being ripped off." Walton also declared that the ruling was "among the great victories of our union's 135-year history".

The AWU's application was supported by numerous organisations, according to the Commission, which were the United Workers Union, Australian Council of Social Service, the Uniting Church of Australia, and 88 Days and Counting. The state governments of Queensland, Victoria, and Western Australia also supported the AWU's appeal.

However, their application was also opposed by other organisations. The Australian Fresh Produce Alliance, Australian Industry Group, Fruit Growers Tasmania, Lucaston Park Orchards, Payne’s Farm Contracting, and the National Farmers' Federation (NFF) were all noted by the Commission to oppose the AWU's stance, with ABC News reporting that the NFF specifically was against the ruling on the grounds that farmers could go out of business because of it and that piece work was beneficial for productivity.

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Kath Sullivan. "Fair Work rules every farm worker on every farm entitled to take home a minimum rate of pay" — ABC News (Australia), November 4, 2021
"Summary of Decision – 3 November 2021" — Fair Work Commission, November 3, 2021 (PDF)

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