Home' Smart Farmer : June 2015 Contents • SmartFarmer
Labour hire issues prompt inquiry
By KARINA NATT
EVIDENCE of mistreatment, exploita-
tion and harassment of workers in the
food industry has prompted Premier
Jay Weatherill to announce a parliamentary
inquiry into labour hire practices.
Industrial Relations Minister John Rau
has also directed relevant state agencies to
investigate possible breaches of the law.
The inquiry was prompted by a Four
Corners program that revealed underpayment
of working holiday visa holders on vegetable
and fruit farms and chicken factories across
The program also uncovered instances of
sexual harassment of female workers.
In SA, a supervisor at D’Vine Ripe, the
largest glasshouse tomato grower in the
southern hemisphere, has been stood down
following the allegations.
“Every worker in SA deserves a fair day’s
pay for a fair and safe day’s work,” Mr
“When evidence is presented that indicates
a section of an industry is operating outside
the law and outside what is acceptable in
our society, it is incumbent on governments
Mr Weatherill said members of parliament
would be consulted on the terms of reference
of the enquiry but it would include consid-
eration of non-payment or underpayment
of workers, avoidance of taxation liabilities,
harassment and exploitation of workers and
recommendations to ensure a fairer, safer
and secure industry.
The National Union of Workers said those
employed on farms across Australia were
being forced to work up to 22 hours a day
for cash payments as low as $4 an hour.
Horticulture Coalition of SA chairperson
Susie Green said most growers were doing
the right thing but there were instances
across Australia of those who were not.
“This is a small minority though,” she said.
“We absolutely do not condone exploita-
tion of the workforce and support any
measures which will clamp down on illegal
Ms Green said work in the industry was
highly seasonal, requiring it to employ large
numbers of workers in a short period of
“There is a need to manage the complexi-
ties of employing people in these circum-
stances and that is why there is a reliance on
contractors,” she said.
“The industry would like to see simplifica-
tion of how the laws for employing people
on visas are managed, which would help
deal with some of these issues.”
Member for Chaffey Tim Whetstone said
issues of payment, accommodation and
exploitation of workers had been raised with
him and his office.
He said he had become aware of a push
back on social media stemming from these
issues, which was also a real concern.
“It attracts attention from far and wide and
it is not a good reflection on the Riverland
or any region in Australia when there is a
disgruntled workforce,” Mr Whetstone said.
“The citrus and stone fruit industries need
workers with a skill set for picking and pack-
ing and it is vital that we have that transient
“There has been a changing face of the
people we employ – it used to be people
who towed a van around the country as a
travelling workforce but nowadays we are
seeing primarily visa holders, not just in
horticulture but the meat and processing
“There is a grey area between the employer
and third parties that needs to be dealt
with. To attract people, they need to be
sure they can work in a safe and well-paid
◗ Food industry employment investigated
◗ Third-party contractor problems
◗ Seasonal workforce poses challenges
D’Vine Ripe cuts contract
AFTER instances of underpayment and
alleged sexual harassment at glasshouse
tomato grower D’Vine Ripe were
uncovered in the Four Corners program,
the company has terminated the contract
with its labour hire company and stood
down a supervisor.
In a statement, the Two Wells-based
company said CNC Labour Hire, which
supplied workers to D’Vine Ripe, had
admitted it had been underpaying its
“This is in spite of our company at all
times paying CNC the correct funds to
cover all wages and entitlements,” it
The company terminated its contract
with CNC and offered all contracted
workers the opportunity to be directly
D’Vine Ripe now employs 100 per cent
of its workforce.
“In the case of CNC, they have shame-
lessly defrauded our workers and our
company,” the statement said.
It said the company was aware of one
of the allegations of sexual harassment,
which had been investigated by the
company and SA Police in December 2014.
“SA Police determined there was
conflicting evidence and the complaint
did not warrant further action,” it said.
As for the other allegation, the
company has stood down the supervisor
involved until the case can be fully
“We wish to state clearly, D’Vine Ripe
has zero tolerance for maltreatment of its
workers and will do whatever is required
to deliver fair and ethical working condi-
tions at all times for our workforce,” the
Robin Sharman and Caroline Hernandez picking tomatoes at D’Vine Ripe, Two Wells. After
revelations of underpayment by labour hire company CNC, the tomato grower has switched to
directly employing all of its workforce.
Aust Post shares biosecurity costs
A FEDERAL budget proposal to share the funding
of international postal biosecurity screening
between government and Australia Post has been
welcomed by Ausveg.
The planned removal of a Commonwealth
government subsidy will result in Australia’s most
extensive postal service taking on a bigger role in
the funding of biosecurity screening.
“Given the significant costs incurred by the
Australian vegetable and potato industry in
ensuring its biosecurity obligations are met,
Ausveg welcomes this move to have Australia Post
take on a fairer share of the costs of screening
procedures that keep this country safe from pests
and diseases,” Ausveg biosecurity coordinator
Jessica Lye said.
“Australian vegetable and potato growers
shoulder a large burden of cost for Australia’s
food safety, and it is only fair that others involved
in the international supply chain contribute to
maintaining Australia’s high food safety standards
and biosecurity integrity.
“It is vitally important that everybody pulls their
weight to ensure we have the biosecurity protocols
in place to keep this country free from some of the
nastier pests and diseases that have ravaged fresh
produce industries overseas.”
Dr Lye said Australia’s biosecurity screening
program had given it a strong reputation as a
producer of clean and safe vegetable and potato
produce, and emphasised that it was important
that reputation was maintained.
“While we have natural advantages due to our
geographical location, we cannot afford to be
complacent, as recent biosecurity outbreaks in this
country have shown,” she said.
“A coordinated and extensive biosecurity screen-
ing process is vital in protecting the Australian
vegetable and potato industry from pests and
diseases, which could affect both our national food
security and ability to export overseas.
“It is pleasing to see the federal government
taking steps to ensure the cost burden of protect-
ing our borders from biosecurity threats does
not disproportionately fall on the shoulders of
Australia’s vegetable and potato growers.”
& BIN SUPPLIES
For all your Fruit &
Vegetable Packaging needs
★ LOCAL & EXPORT CARTONS
(WAXED & UNWAXED)
★ BULK FRUIT BINS
★ SUPPLIERS OF CANADIAN
PLASTIC FOR GREENHOUSES
★ STANDARD STOCKS READILY AVAILABLE
All enquiries welcome.
For quality & service contact:
32 PHINEAS ST, VIRGINIA SA 5120
JIM, PAT & TONY STRANGIO
PHONE: (08) 8380 9888 FAX: (08) 8380 9330
Links Archive May 2015 July 2015 Navigation Previous Page Next Page