Migrant tomato pickers working in regional Victoria have been awarded more than $50,000 after an inquiry by the Fair Work Ombudsman proved they were underpaid. The seasonal workers from Vanuatu had been picking tomatoes on a farm near Shepparton between December 2017 and April 2018, being hired by Agri-Labour Australia Pty Ltd.
The workers were paid based on how much fruit the team picked rather than the correct agreement based on individual productivity, Fair Work found. "All horticultural businesses must be aware of how to lawfully pay their workers and, if using piece rates, ensure workers are paid in accordance with piecework agreements," Ombudsman Sandra Parker stated.
The Brisbane-based company was ordered to pay $50,823, but admitted it couldn't determine if the amounts sufficiently compensated workers because it did not keep records of hours worked. It also admitted deducting money from wages for wet weather gear and making higher deductions than those authorised.
"Under the court-enforceable undertaking, Agri-Labour has committed to extensive measures aimed at sustained workplace compliance, and we will scrutinise their work practices for the next two years," Ms Parker said. The largest individual payment owed to an employee was $4,591. According to au.news.yahoo.com, Agri-Labour will also pay a $15,000 contribution to a federal government revenue fund.