Australian berry growers urged to ensure compliance with employment laws

Berries Australia notes the release of the Fair Work Ombudsman’s Harvest Trail Inquiry and urges all berry growers to ensure they comply with relevant laws and treat both permanent and seasonal workers in a fair and ethical manner.

“We condemn the mistreatment of any workers and fully support the Fair Work Ombudsman in their efforts to stamp out such behaviour”, said Berries Australia President, Peter McPherson.

The Harvest Trail report highlights labour practices which are unacceptable both legally and ethically and should have no part in how the horticulture industry operates.

Not only is it wrong, it’s also simply bad business because workers will not want to return if they have been mistreated. It also reflects badly on the majority of growers and farmers who are doing the right thing.

“Berry growing is a labour-intensive activity and the industry relies on seasonal workers to harvest our crops. Without these workers, crops won’t be harvested. Whether seasonal workers are direct employees or sourced through third parties, we encourage every berry grower to be aware of their legal obligations under relevant workplace laws and make sure they comply,” said Mr McPherson.

Berries Australia supports the Ombudsman’s commitment to continue to monitor harvest trail employers and prioritise any requests for assistance from workers, while taking necessary action against growers and labour hire operators who fail to comply with Australia’s workplace laws.

As a key peak industry representative body, Berries Australia also looks forward to participating in the Fair Work Ombudsman’s stakeholder reference group, which will consider crucial next steps to implement the recommendations outlined in the inquiry report.

“We must do everything we can to call out unacceptable labour practices which are illegal and unethical, because the community will not tolerate such practices and nor should our industry," said Mr McPherson.

Berries Australia Limited is a joint venture of the Australian Blueberry Growers’ Association, Raspberries and Blackberries Australia, and Strawberries Australia, representing 700+ growers, ranging from major horticultural enterprises and multi-site agribusinesses to local cooperatives and independent farms.

In total, the growers’ annual output of 109,000 tonnes of berries represents a gross return of $1.05bn farmgate value in the national economy.

Berries Australia members supply supermarket chains, non-aligned retailers, food service and restaurants, and Berries Australia has a strong focus on expanding export markets of Australian berries.

Berries are grown in New South Wales, Victoria, Tasmania, Queensland, South Australia, and Western Australia enabling year-round production and supply to consumers. The industry continues to grow rapidly in Australia and is well regarded world-wide.

For more information:
Alex Smith
Berries Australia Limited
Tel: +61 409 200 926

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