Farmers win changes to modern Horticulture Award

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Farmers win changes to modern Horticulture Award

Five months of negotiation with the Federal Government on changes to the modern Horticulture Award succeeded for the National Farmers’ Federation, as Workplace Relations Minister Julia Gillard accepted the peak farm body’s arguments and used her discretionary power to ask the Australian Industrial Relations Commission to revisit conditions under the Award.

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Five months of negotiation with the Federal Government on changes to the modern Horticulture Award succeeded for the National Farmers’ Federation (NFF), as Workplace Relations Minister Julia Gillard accepted the peak farm body’s arguments and used her discretionary power to ask the Australian Industrial Relations Commission (AIRC) to revisit conditions under the Award.
 
'We’ve always been confident the Deputy Prime Minister would make the necessary changes to the Ministerial Request that require the AIRC to reconsider the Hours of Work and Piece Work clauses in the modern Horticulture Award,' NFF Vice-President Charles Burke said.
 
'Horticulture producers will be elated by this win for the sector. The decision comes after ongoing consultation between the NFF and the Government, where the NFF detailed the reasons warranting ministerial intervention over the AIRC’s April 2009 decision.'
 
Concerns
 
Burke continued:
'The NFF and horticultural growers were distressed by the AIRC move to introduce an inflexible Hours of Work clause, starkly at odds with the flexible working conditions required in the horticulture sector due to seasonal demands and the perishable nature of horticulture products.
 
The conversion in the Piece Work rate to an incentive-based allowance would have resulted in an unnecessary regulatory burden on small business, reducing the capacity of the sector to employ inexperienced workers or those who have difficulties in entering into the workforce.
 
The variation to the Ministerial Request will now provide the NFF with the ability to put these issues before the AIRC to amend both clauses consistent with the NFF’s earlier success in arguing flexible arrangements for the livestock and cropping sectors under the modern Pastoral Award.
 
As part of the consultation, concerns were expressed about the lack of compliance of workplace relations laws by some employers in the horticulture sector. Taking that onboard, the NFF has agreed to be a partner in a compliance program with the Government and other key stakeholders to ensure greater awareness within the sector of workplace relations laws.'
Compliance
 
Burke then said:
'The compliance program is consistent with the existing partnership between the NFF and the Government in providing the whole of agriculture with information — via free Fair Work seminars and supporting materials on the new workplace relations system — through the Fair Work Information and Education Program.
 
Over the past five months we have been impressed with the Government’s preparedness to engage constructively with the NFF to remedy these issues for horticulture growers. We applaud the approach taken by the Deputy Prime Minister in considering, in detail, the merits of the industry’s needs.'
 
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