The COVID-19 situation continues to roll on with a significant impact on horticulture businesses across the country.

AUSVEG, along with other horticulture industry bodies, have been working with government offices and federal departments to help make the impact from the Coronavirus as painless as possible.

The visa extensions announced a couple of weeks ago were an important step, but the conversations have certainly moved to the practicalities of how to move a workforce across boundaries, while also keeping them safe.

The advice is largely with State Governments on details of self-isolation processes, and AUSVEG urges growers to seek information from state members and state government websites where possible.

AUSVEG has also been working with government around the impact of the loss of the food services industry and what opportunities and support government and industry can provide in that space.

It is a complicated area, but government is looking at both export and domestic opportunities to try and assist where possible.

Hort Award Changes
The Fair Work Commission (FWC) has varied most Awards, including the Pastoral, Horticultural and Sugar Industry Awards, to:

  1. enable employees to take unpaid pandemic leave if they are required to self-isolate pursuant to government recommendation; and,
  2. to allow employer and employee to agree for the employee to take twice as much annual leave at half pay.

“Unpaid Pandemic Leave” is available to all employees, including casuals, and won’t be prorated according to weekly hours. “Double leave at half pay” will be available by agreement, and the agreement would have to be in writing.  The change effectively circumvents inflexibilities in the existing annual leave provisions.

Social Distancing and Accommodation Requirements for Transient Workers
While the specifics are the responsibility of state and territory governments, the Federal Agricultural Minister has worked with state and territory counterparts to establish consistent principles.

The Minister has indicated that these principles will be reported back to National Cabinet this week. That said, it is the responsibility of everyone involved — including councils, employers, and employees — to put in place appropriate measures to meet those requirements (in the context of the local communities and specific workplaces).

Labour Hire conversations around JobKeeper
AUSVEG has been informed that some labour hire businesses are not passing on the JobKeeper wage subsidy onto the growers who are using the contractors.

We urge growers to have a conversation with their labour hire company to ensure they are and to please let us know if this is not happening.

The JobKeeper wage subsidy is there to support the worker and must be passed on in full.

AUSVEG helps to drive horticulture agenda
The NFF’s Horticulture Council is now entering its third year and has developed into an effective pathway to raise and advocate issues on behalf of the horticulture industry. As a result of that, membership of the council has continued to grow which is a positive sign of the industry coming together on common issues.

This has also led to council member AUSVEG offering its National Public Affairs Manager Tyson Cattle to go on secondment for 2 days a week to the NFF as EO of the council to help continue to drive issues and keep the council on an upward curve. Tyson has worked at AUSVEG for the past two years and has developed a strong knowledge of horticulture in that time and demonstrated an ability to advocate.

Other helpful links

Complete the AUSVEG Grower Survey now!
AUSVEG has launched its 2020 AUSVEG Grower Survey and is calling for your feedback to help guide its agenda for this year.

This is your chance to have your say on significant issues such as your Research and Development levy and help set the priorities for AUSVEG’s advocacy agenda.

Click here to complete the AUSVEG Grower Survey