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Tasmanian fruit growers push back on minimum rate for pickers

Fruit growers in Tasmania will appeal a Fair Work Commission decision to award minimum wages to their pickers.

Until now, across Australia, orchard and other farm workers have been paid a piece rate, so the more fruit or vegetables harvested, the more a worker is paid. Last week's ruling will see pickers paid a guaranteed minimum casual rate of $25.41 per hour, a move welcomed by unions as one of the most significant industrial decision of modern times.

However, many growers, like Huon Valley fruit grower Andrew Griggs, said many farmers were exasperated with the decision. "We think The Fair Work Commission should address non–compliance by prosecuting offenders, not by encumbering most compliant farmers … with this unworkable ruling. The vast majority of farmers have absolutely no problem paying people a fair day's pay for a fair day's work. Some of our employees earn doctors' salaries when they're with us."

Many farmers are still trying to get their heads around the ruling, and many remain uncertain about the timing of implementation.

Peak industry body Fruit Growers Tasmania has held three workshops to date with growers across the state, and the feedback has shown orchardists are not happy. Tasmanian fruit growers argue that the minimum wage ruling will stop a particular cohort from getting jobs in the fruit- and vegetable-picking industry.


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