Farmers and some workers say they are losing money because of changes to the award wage for casual horticultural employees.
Since April 2019 farmers have had to pay their casual workers overtime rates if they worked more than 38 hours a week (averaged out over an eight-week period), along with penalty rates to those working more than 12 hours a day or night-shifts.
The new rules were strongly opposed by farming groups when first flagged in 2018, with warnings that some farms would be forced out of business. Now, the Northern Territory's mango industry -worth more than $90 million- has just finished its first harvest operating under the new rules.
One of Australia's largest fruit companies, Piñata Farms, said it has been hit twice as hard by the changes to award, due to long work hours and night harvesting. "We have to pay a 15 percent premium to pick at night-time, when it is better for the workers and the fruit," the company's Stephen Scurr told abc.net.au. "That extra money has to come out of our pocket — consumers aren't going to pay the extra 15 percent, so at the end of the day it is the grower who wears the cost, no-one else. We can't seem to be able to put our prices up and get that return back — [the produce] just doesn't get sold.”