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.
Farmers and labour-hire contractors will be asked to open their books, allowing inspectors to view records, with a particular emphasis on minimum pay rates, loadings and penalties.
Record keeping and payslip obligations will also be monitored as the ombudsman investigates allegations backpackers working in the horticulture industry are being underpaid.
Fair Work Ombudsman Natalie James says it is important that employers in Bundaberg understand their workplace obligations.
She says key stakeholders have been enlisted to assist the Agency promote the need for compliance and a “level playing field” for all employers.
These include the Bundaberg Fruit and Vegetable Growers Association, Growcom and Bundaberg and District Chamber of Commerce.
Ms James says Bundaberg relies heavily on labour from working holiday makers, many of whom undertake seasonal harvest work to help qualify for a second-year visa.
“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.
She added that over the next few years the Fair Work Ombudsman will visit dozens of fruit and vegetable farms throughout Australia as part of its focus on the entitlements of seasonal harvest workers.
“We want to ensure employers understand and meet their workplace obligations and we are also seeking information about industry factors that influence compliance levels.”
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