The Fair Work Commission’s (FWC) hearing of the Australian Workers Union application to vary the Horticulture Award regarding piecework rates has almost wrapped up.

The National Farmers’ Federation (NFF) the NFF Horticulture Council, of which AUSVEG is a member, are jointly contesting the application which seeks to:

  1. Place a ‘floor’ on piece rate arrangements to see that a pieceworker is guaranteed at least minimum hourly earnings; and
  2. Require employers to maintain a record of all piece workers’ hours.

Over four days from 13-20 July, via video conference, the FWC heard evidence from both sides. On behalf of the NFF and NFF Horticulture Council, as well as the Australian Fresh Produce Alliance (AFPA), witnesses were cross examined about how and why they use piece work rates and the impact a floor price would have on their businesses and incomes.

As witnesses, the AWU offered union officials and organisers; a number of farm workers and academics, Dr Joanna Howe and Dr Elsa Underhill.

In cross examination of the union officials, the NFF was successful in demonstrating that they had not made any real effort to report alleged instances of non-compliance or underpayment, despite the supposed abundance of underpayment and exploitation.

Both Doctor Howe and Doctor Underhill were tested on their methodology; whether they made assumptions; and/or held biases.

Written closing submissions (in chief) are underway this week starting, Monday 26 July 2021, with a  half-day hearing on Friday, 30 July 2021, set aside for oral arguments.

The FWC will then reserve its decision. It remains unclear as to when the commission will hand down a decision.

The NFF Horticulture Council extends its sincere gratitude to the growers and farm workers who appeared as witnesses.

To read the submissions or more on the application see here.