AUSVEG fully supports today’s warning by the Fair Work Ombudsman to dodgy labour hire operators in the farming sector, and believes the focus of enforcement activities should be those dubious labour hire companies that are doing the wrong thing.

“AUSVEG fully supports the attention that this issue is receiving, and has long been a proponent of any initiative that will rid the industry of exploitative labour hire providers that do not comply with Australian employment laws and standards,” said AUSVEG spokesperson Andrew White.

“Labour hire contractors are a vital source of labour for the vegetable industry. It is important that we support labour hire companies and growers that are doing the right thing by appropriately regulating, penalising and eliminating those labour providers that are doing the wrong thing,” said Mr White.

AUSVEG is the leading horticultural body representing Australia’s 9,000 vegetable and potato growers.

“The reputation of Australian growers and the industry is suffering because of the dishonest practices of some labour hire providers,” said Mr White.

“It is important to remember that the majority of growers out there are doing the right thing by their workers, both permanent and seasonal.  The focus of government enforcement activities should clearly be on those labour hire providers that are doing the wrong thing, to stop rogue operators from taking advantage of both growers and workers,” he said.

“Growers pay labour hire contractors to provide a service and therefore expect them to do the required checks into the legality of workers and to ensure that appropriate pay conditions are being met,” he said.

“If some labour hire contractors are doing the wrong thing by underpaying or mistreating workers thing then it’s the entire industry that suffers. Greater enforcement is needed to crack down on those companies’ doing the wrong thing, but the focus should be on the source of the problem not the unwitting end user,” said Mr White.

Vegetable and potato growers have long struggled with labour shortages in specific regional areas.

“Labour shortages are an ongoing issue for growers across parts of the country and AUSVEG has long said it would back any initiatives that make it easier for Australian growers to source workers to get the job done,” Mr White said.

The industry has also called for better management of backpacker and seasonal workers sourced through labour hire companies, and believe the government could consider licensing of labour hire firms as an option.


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