Voice of Horticulture calls for ‘Green Card’ to help growers employ workers

The Voice of Horticulture (VOH) condemns the illegal exploitation of workers and genuinely believes in a fair day’s pay for a fair day’s work.

“The vast majority of more than 30,000 Australian horticulture farmers and growers provide excellent working conditions for their employees, with many itinerant workers returning year after year to the same farms and businesses because they have established a positive relationship with them,” says Voice of Horticulture Chair Tania Chapman.

“The VOH condemns unscrupulous labour hire contractors and all those associated with them and welcomes increased enforcement and engagement activity, especially by the Fair Work Ombudsman, to bring the weight of the law on those who illegally exploit workers.”

People on working visas play a key role in Australian horticulture, a role that cannot be satisfied by local Australian labour. Reforms are needed to keep legal avenues of work available to them.

“It is important that any solutions to increase enforcement do not add to the burden on growers and farmers who often struggle with the red tape around employment law, which is very complicated,” says Voice of Horticulture Deputy Chair John Dollisson. “Instead we need to focus on tracking down and stamping out the dodgy practices of some labour contractors.

“We are also recommending that when the Department of Immigration and Border Protection issues a 417 Working Visa it also issues a ‘Green Card’.”

A Green Card would incorporate the worker’s photo, name and visa status as well as Tax File Number and Superannuation Number. This would simplify the paperwork for growers and farmers to ensure they are employing legal workers.

The back of the card Green Card would state minimum labour pay rates and provide Fair Work Ombudsman help lines in various languages so the worker could seek help if needed.

“VOH stands ready to work with all parties to publicise, stamp out and remove unacceptable and illegal work practices brought to light by ABC’s 4 Corners,” says Chapman. “VOH will also help in any way to establish and roll out a Green Card solution.”

The Voice of Horticulture is a member-based organisation that represents horticultural growers and businesses across fruit, nuts, mushrooms, turf, nursery plants and cut flowers.