Isis farms face audits
CHILDERS farms have been put under the microscope as Fair Work inspectors spent the week making impromptu visits across the region.
Inspectors from the Fair Work Ombudsman’s regional services team spent several days making unannounced visits to properties to ensure seasonal workers on local fruit and vegetable farms are being paid their correct wages and entitlements.
Those visited were asked to open their books to allow inspectors to view records, with a particular emphasis on minimum pay rates, loadings and penalties.
This follows persistent complaints and concerns in relation to non-compliance with federal workplace laws.
FairWork Ombudsman Craig Bildstien said inspectors spoke to a number of property owners, labour-hire contractors as well as pickers and packers.
“We have identified some potentially concerning issues that will require follow-up lines of inquiry,” Mr Bildstien said.
“It is very early, and Fair Work inspectors need to analyse the information they have collected.
“It is likely some employers will be audited.”
Mr Bildstien said a return visit by FairWork Ombudsman was on the cards before the end of the year.
The visit comes as stakeholders and elected representatives met in Brisbane last week to discuss contract labour hire issues facing Queensland agriculture.
Member for Hinkler Keith Pitt and Senator Barry O’Sullivan brought together peak industry bodies and businesses to hear firsthand the difficulties workers, hostels, farmers and legitimate labour hire contractors dealt with.
Mr Pitt, a former cane farmer and training provider, said it was the increasing number of serious complaints made to his office that prompted he and Senator O’Sullivan to organise the forum.
“Allegations range from underpayment and exploitation of workers to tax evasion, visa breaches, racial discrimination, intimidation of farmers and overcrowding in private residential properties,” he said.
“One of the problems people face in formally reporting their complaint is the sheer number of agencies involved across all three levels of government. In many cases they are just too scared to give their name to the authorities.
“We want to ensure seasonal workers are protected; that businesses have a level playing field and Australia remains a destination of choice for overseas students and working holiday makers.”