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AWU to launch underpayment investigations on farms claiming their business model has been destroyed by new award

May 3, 2022

The AWU is launching a new initiative today to investigate farms the union suspects have been underpaying their workers, starting with employers who have publicly claimed changes to the Horticulture Award have destroyed their business model.

The new Horticulture Award mandates a baseline rate of pay to sit beneath the piece rate system – prompting several farm owners to publicly claim their business models have been destroyed. The union considers that if an employer’s business model is destroyed by having to meet Australian minimum wage requirements, it is likely these employers may have been routinely underpaying workers by a significant margin.

AWU organisers will now be seeking to contact workers employed by these farms to check if they are owed money. The union will also be launching a new online tool for migrant workers – available in English and Chinese at launch – which will enable them to easily check whether they are being underpaid.

“If you’re out there whinging your business model can’t survive paying the Australian minimum wage, then it’s fair to assume you might have been ripping off your workers,” said AWU National Secretary Daniel Walton.

“The NFF, when they were opposing the safety net we now have, kept telling everyone that no worker on piece rates was getting paid below the minimum wage anyway. If that’s the case, where’s all this complaining we’ve seen in the media coming from?”

“We thank the complainers for giving us a good place to start in our new drive to identify historic and current underpayment in the industry.

“We strongly encourage anyone who has picked fruit in Australia, and who thinks they may have been ripped off, to contact us or to use the new calculator we’ve set up.

“The only way we fix this nasty scourge of underpayment and abuse is to start tackling it head on. There are many good farmers out there who respect Australian pay and Australian conditions. They shouldn’t be placed at a competitive disadvantage against the shonks and abusers that have been allowed to grow endemic under the current federal government.”

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