AUSTRALIA: DODGY farm labour practices in the Lockyer Valley have been targeted in a multi-agency operation.The Fair Work Ombudsman joined forces with Queensland Workplace Heath and Safety and police to lead the compliance operation targeting worker exploitation.The operation began after a tip-off within the farming industry.
The person made allegations that included potential underpayment of wages, workers being provided unsafe and very poor accommodation, unsafe drinking water, unregistered transport and workers being charged job find fees.
In response, a 12-person team of Fair Work inspectors, Work Health and Safety inspectors and police conducted unannounced visits to four vegetable farms over two days.
The Fair Work inspectors are currently auditing the farms’ employment records for July and August this year to check compliance with the Fair Work Act 2009 and Horticulture Award 2010.
As a result of the operation, the Fair Work Ombudsman started a number of investigations into potential breaches by several contractors.
Issues outside the Fair Work Ombudsman’s jurisdiction are being dealt with by the relevant regulators.
Ombudsman Natalie James said it was encouraging to see businesses taking a proactive interest in ensuring compliance within the horticulture sector.
“The fact that the industry itself is willing to bring forward allegations of suspected non-compliance is a positive sign,” Ms James said.
“Over a number of years my agency has undertaken activities aimed at shining a light on the dodgy labour practices and it is pleasing to see the industry take steps to stamp out these insidious practices.
“It is blatantly unfair for workers and it is unfair for responsible operators that are doing the right thing to have to compete with those who base their business models on unlawful activities.
“We are pleased to work alongside Queensland Workplace Health and Safety and the Queensland police in this operation to tackle the serious issues in this sector.
“It sends a strong message to crooked operators that we are on the case and will use our powers to enforce the law and disrupt their unlawful activities.”
Employers and employees seeking assistance can visit fairwork.gov.au or call the Fair Work Infoline on 13 13 94