Proposal already sparking backlash

Australia: Laborers could be part-paid with fruit and veg

In Australia, farm laborers could be part-paid with fruit, vegetables, and other produce. The National Farmers Federation (NFF) has proposed changes to take “non-monetary benefits” into account when registering workplace pay deals, echoing calls from the fast-food sector during the last round of industrial relations reforms.

The Albanese government has signaled it wants to use the summit to boost productivity and pay, with most union and employer groups proposing changes to shorten the time taken to register pay deals and prevent hypothetical scenarios from being used by the Fair Work Commission to reject deals.

The NFF president, Fiona Simson, said considering benefits, including food, in approving workplace pay deals would be “transparent” and ensure “they are considered upfront, and everybody is very clear about the intention of that arrangement.” Simson stated that farm employers offer a range of non-monetary benefits to workers, including accommodation, electricity, food, and fuel.

However, the proposal to allow farmers to partially pay workers with fruit and vegetables has been met with immediate backlash. Employment Minister Tony Burke said the idea was unlikely to get up: “I’ve heard people colloquially say they’re ‘paid peanuts’ – but this is the first time I’ve heard someone propose it for real. We’re not ruling ideas in or out before the summit has even started. But on this one, it’s fair to say I’d need a lot of convincing.”


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