Farms under spotlight in Fair Work blitz
BUNDABERG farmers and labour-hire contractors will be visited by Fair Work inspectors today, to ensure seasonal workers on local fruit and vegetable farms are being paid their correct wages and entitlements.
Six inspectors from the Fair Work Ombudsman's regional services team will make unannounced site visits to local properties in response to persistent complaints and concerns about non-compliance with federal workplace laws.
Those visited will be asked to open their books, allowing inspectors to view records, with a particular emphasis on minimum pay rates, loadings and penalties.
Fair Work Ombudsman Natalie James said it was important employers in Bundaberg understood their workplace obligations.
"We have recently received information that suggests some of these workers may be being underpaid, so we intend to investigate and ensure that employers understand and are complying with their workplace obligations," she said.
Ms James said Bundaberg relied heavily on labour from working holiday makers, many of whom undertook seasonal harvest work to help qualify for a second-year visa.
"The first preference of Fair Work inspectors will be to work co-operatively with employers to assist them to correct any issues by agreement and put processes in place to ensure future compliance," she said.
"The knowledge we gain from these activities will help us to better direct our education and campaign activities, particularly in relation to the overseas workers employed in this sector."
If cases of serious non-compliance are found, Fair Work will consider enforcement measures such as issuing on-the-spot fines of up to $2550.
A decision to monitor workplace compliance in Bundy follows auditing in Caboolture last year, which found more than 150 seasonal workers had been short-changed about $133,000.
Ms James said Bundaberg Fruit and Vegetable Growers Association, Growcom and Bundaberg and Districts Chamber of Commerce had been enlisted to help Fair Work promote the need for compliance and a "level playing field" for all employers.
Pickers with questions about their pay, conditions or entitlements are encouraged to speak to Fair Work inspectors for free advice.
In addition to field visits, inspectors will run an information booth at the Federal Backpackers Hostel on Bourbong St from 4.30-6pm on Tuesday.