Should piece work rates be sent packing?August 2nd, 2017 | | Accommodation
While those looking to combat backpacker exploitation want to ban it, some farms are keen to extend piece work rates from the field and into the packing sheds. The way workers are paid for working on farms is now at the forefront of the debate in the wake of a campaign by Rosie Ayliffe, the mother of murdered backpacker Mia Ayliffe, who wants to end ‘piece rate’ work.
Some say that these jobs target temporary foreign workers and pay well below the national minimum wage. Meanwhile, Australia’s biggest potato grower is leading a national push to pay employees who work in packing and storage sheds located off farm sites the same rates as lower-paid farm workers.
In Sydney to give evidence to the Fair Work Commission hearing of Mitolo Group’s application to have the Horticulture Award extended to store workers who handle fresh produce, employee Kay Rault who grades potatoes and onions at Mitolo’s South Australian facility said it was hard to make ends meet on her wages.
“If this change gets through, things could get a lot harder for people like me and my workmates,” she said. “Why should big companies be able to change the law just because it suits them?” Ms Rault’s employer, Mitolo Group, a major supermarket supplier, is among companies backed by the Australian Industry Group which is putting their case to the Fair Work Commission.
Some farmers, on the other hand, say piece work rates increase motivation and productivity amongst workers. North-west Victorian citrus picker Arnold Hemara, 63, has been earning money this way for the last 40 years. “I earn more money on piece rates, it’s tough but I prefer it that way,” he told ABC.
Under the Horticulture Award, pickers can lawfully be paid piece rates, rather than an hourly rate. But the piece rates paid must allow an average picker to earn at least 15% more than the relevant minimum award hourly rate. Closing arguments on the matter will be presented to the Fair Work Commission this week in Melbourne.
Do you think piece work encourages underpayment or can it make the job fairer? Have your say.
Sourced by: Alex Harmon