The National Farmers' Federation is urging horticulture workers who believe they have been underpaid to report their experiences. It has also tagged the release of Unions NSW report into farm pay rates as a ‘stunt’.
The report in question suggested that in Australia, young workers are being paid as little as $1.25 per hour and exploitation of migrants is rampant on many farms.
The report's authors reviewed more than 1000 ads published, mainly on social media, between December 2019 and September 2020, while also interviewing more than 100 horticultural workers. Of the workers interviewed, none met the minimum legal wage, while 88 per cent of job ads promised "piece rates" rather than an hourly wage, meaning workers were paid per volume of work.
National Farmers' Federation chief executive officer Tony Mahar said backpackers, seasonal workers, school leavers and full-time employees were all essential parts of the farm sector.
"It is crucial that you have a positive experience on farm, which begins with being paid the award wage," Mr Mahar said. He added: "The large majority of farmers do the right thing. They want workers to enjoy their job and value the farmer-worker partnership in putting food on shelves; fueling the economy and sustaining regional communities. "Operators who don't uphold the law are not only ripping off workers, but are also letting down their industry, at time when many are facing a dire workforce shortage. They must be held to account."