Isis farms face au­dits

Isis Town and Country - - NEWS -

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.”

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