AWU set to fix Australia’s piece rate system, dubious farmers’ best friend

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Australian Workers Union

The Australian Workers’ Union will begin action this week to guarantee fruit pickers a guaranteed minimum wage, instead of being scammed by ‘piece rates’ which have seen some workers paid as little as $ 3 per hour.

Starting tomorrow (July 13), the Fair Work Commission will hear the AWU case to change the price of horticulture to ensure that every worker on every farm has the right to receive the occasional minimum wage, currently 25 , $ 41 per hour.

Currently, farms can avoid this minimum rate through piece rate agreements, where workers are paid according to the amount of fruit picked or vegetables harvested. The manipulation of this system has led to widespread incidences of workers being paid a few dollars an hour, as recently revealed in a series of surveys and reports, including recently in the McKell Institute’s landmark Blue Harvest report.

Under the AWU proposed amendment, piece rate agreements would still be allowed, but each worker would be guaranteed the award rate as a floor. AWU National Secretary Daniel Walton said he believes his union’s cause is strong and just.

“Australia was built on the principle of a fair working day for a fair working day. Piece rates violate this principle, allowing vulnerable workers to be cheated, scammed and exploited, ”said Mr. Walton.

“The agricultural lobby likes piece rates because their complexity is a great place to hide from wage thieves. Currently, you don’t even record how many hours a person worked. If we are serious about cracking down on wage theft and abuse, then we need to put a floor on piecework rates.

“A minimum hourly wage would allow a worker, even a disadvantaged and vulnerable one, to know more easily if she is being ripped off. The equation becomes, “Are you making at least $ 25.41 an hour?” No? OK, then you are mistaken. Obviously, this is much easier than weighing all the intricacies and shortcomings of piecework rates.

“The government will fight this because it undermines its new strategy of bringing in easily exploited workers from Southeast Asia. The purpose of the new ASEAN visa is to open up new flows of workers who can be easily deceived and intimidated at work. Making it easy for these workers to understand if they are being wronged is the last thing the farm lobby wants.

“Report after report, we have shown that exploitation, abuse and even slavery are rampant on Australian farms.

“The agricultural lobby likes to say that piece workers earn more than minimum wage. If so, what we are proposing should have no impact on them. There is no reason to accept that fruit and vegetable picking exists in an industrial no man’s land outside of Australian norms and standards. The minimum wage applies to all other jobs, it should apply here as well.

“We expect broad support for this amendment, as it also makes economic sense for rural communities. Workers who earn more spend more in local stores and supermarkets. They pay income tax and GST. They rent houses and build lives in regional areas.

“If we win this case, it will help attract Australians to an area where they should be working. The so-called labor shortage was created by greedy employers destroying working conditions. The introduction of the minimum wage would give residents the assurance that they can work in this sector without being ripped off. “

/ Public distribution. This material is from the original organization and may be ad hoc in nature, edited for clarity, style and length.

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