Citrus growers from the Riverina region are worried the recent Fair Work Commission decision on piece rates will make their industry less competitive. Last week, the Fair Work Commission maintained the ability for farmers to pay workers on the Horticulture Award piece rates, but instituted a guaranteed minimum casual rate of $25.41 per hour. Griffith and District Citrus growers Association chairman Vito Mancini said the impact of the floor price for labor would be felt most by smaller farmers.
"It will make it quite difficult for small businesses to keep functioning as they are," Mancini said. It's not only the cost of labor, but the accounting of hours worked, breaks taken plus other requirements. Mancini added that, in time, it could mean farmers move from growing citrus to crops with mechanical harvesting, like nuts or wine grapes.
He said the piece rate was a key tool in Australia citrus being competitive against South African and South American growers.