An Australian fresh produce labour management tool is already receiving interest from companies looking to better manage their workforce processes since the recent Horticulture Award changes to piecework legislation.
This month, the Fair Work Commission ruled to vary the Horticulture Award to ensure that all pieceworkers must be paid a minimum hourly rate in accordance with the employee’s classification and type of employment - and as a result, producers must record details such as pieceworkers' attendance, hours, activity and the pay.
AgPick Technology chief executive officer Henrietta Child says her systems are already providing companies easy and accurate recording of time bookings and activity, including paid and unpaid breaks.
"We don't really know what is going to happen as a result of the decision and how people are going to adjust their processes," she said. "In general, growers will have to pay attention to keeping better records and being able to produce them, if and when an audit takes place. The system has always done this, but people may not think that they need to use it at the moment, because they wouldn't think they needed to pay that much attention to recording this information but I can see in the future that they will have to switch those things on. We have had a few enquiries, and we have signed a new client because of it."
But Ms Child says people are still getting to grips with the decision and what exactly they need to do differently - but a key component of the AgPick system is that it allows you to switch between hourly rate and piecework rate seamlessly.
"So, it enables you to calculate the piece rate, and see which workers don't comply and then set them over to hourly rate over pretty much automatically," Ms Child explained. "I think it is very easy to implement our system, but what you put in is what you get out. If you put in the effort you will have some great information recorded. Our system has been designed to make it easy for farmers to use. I can see that farmers are hungry for technology, but worry about whether it is going to be value for money and they aren't sure that it will do what it says it will do. So, to that, I'd say you never know if you don't try it. Sitting back and going without the available tools is not going to be a good model for the current situation."
AgPick has been successfully working in this way for major Australian berry producers for several years. However, it can be applied to any fresh produce line and over any number of sites.
"AgPick records data at the source so it is accurate and efficient," Ms Child said. "Worker data is visible immediately which supports early intervention by managers to address and resolve workplace productivity issues. This will be the catalyst for growers to become more organised and accountable and it will reduce inefficiency during the national labour shortage. We expect there will be an urgent need from producers who currently rely on paper-based systems or counting apps to become compliant quickly. Change is coming and the good news is there's technology such as ours to support growers to make that change more easily than they might think."