Up to 20 vineyards will be inspected to ensure they are paying workers their full entitlements, as well as keeping proper employment records and issuing employees with pay slips.
Fair Work Ombudsman Natalie James said that the fruit picking industry attracts foreign workers such as backpackers who will not always be aware of their workplace rights or are otherwise reluctant to complain, making them vulnerable to exploitation. “That’s why we place a high priority on conducting proactive activities aimed at ensuring these workers are receiving their full lawful entitlements.”
“Inspectors will visit backpacker hostels where pickers may be staying to speak directly to them and provide them with information about their workplace rights,” she said.
Where non-compliance is uncovered, inspectors will attempt to assist employees to voluntarily rectify the issues in their workplace. James added that common non-compliance issues in the fruit picking industry include underpayment of hourly rates, unlawful deductions from wages for travel and accommodation, failure to keep records, and detailed pay slips not being provided within one day of pay day.
This week’s investigation comes about following recent back-payment recoveries by the FWO. Last week, an underpaid truck driver from Northern Queensland was back-paid $52,000, having been underpaid the minimum hourly rate and travel allowance entitlements.
Other recent recoveries include $19,100 for a foreigner worker at a Cairns-based bakery, who was underpaid wages and personal leave entitlements, and $5,600 for a tradesman in Cairns who was not paid his final wages upon the termination of his employment last year.
“When we identify an error and contact a business, our focus is on educating the employer about their obligations and helping them to put processes in place to ensure future compliance, and that’s what we did in these cases,” James said.
Natalie James will be speaking at the National HR Summit. Click here to find out more and to register.
Vineyards in the Hunter Valley region will be visited by Fair Work Ombudsman (FWO) Inspectors this week to ensure grape pickers are being paid correctly.