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Want more Australians to pick fruit? Try paying them Australian wages

September 17, 2020

The Australian Workers’ Union says the proposal for a ‘Gap Year at Home’ program is a distraction from the main issue keeping unemployed Australians from working on farms: rampant law breaking by employers.

The parliamentary committee on migration has recommended consideration of a ‘Gap Year at Home’ program that would encourage school and university graduates to spend time doing agricultural and horticultural work.

Read more about the program here.

However AWU National Secretary Daniel Walton said the latest “cute idea” for the horticulture sector deliberately ignored the elephant in the room.

”There a now a million Australians searching for work. We don’t need exotic branded schemes to entice them into horticulture, we just need farms to obey the law,” Mr Walton said.

“The reason Australians are not being employed on farms is because too many employers in the sector prefer to hire people they can easily underpay, exploit, and, in many cases, harass.

“We know this not a case of a few bad apples. Bad employers are rampant in the fruit and veg industry because they know they have a virtual green light from government to ignore Australian employment laws.

“It’s little wonder that Australians prefer to avoid an industry where Australian wages and conditions are routinely ignored.

“These bad employers in fruit and veg don’t just make life hard for workers, they give themselves an unfair advantage over farmers who want to do the right thing. It’s time the farmers who do the right thing started calling out the bad behaviour. Regional communities know who the law breakers are. Being silent isn’t good enough.

“We need farms to consistently pay legal wages and honour Australian conditions. If Australians were confident they could earn award rates picking fruit they would flock to vacancies.

“If we clean up the industry – through stronger penalties, labour hire regulation, union inspections, and wages checks – we won’t need silly schemes like ‘gap year at home.’”

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