IN THIS SECTION:
The NFF represents the farming sector in annual wage decisions, ongoing workplace relations reforms, workforce deregulation and flexible workplace relations, and works actively to address the chronic labour shortage in regional Australia.
This week, the NFF filed draft proposals in the Fair Work Commission for changes to the Pastoral Award 2010. Key issues for the NFF include reducing the overtime rate for milking on Sundays, retaining ordinary hours on weekends in the poultry industry and a new annual salaries provision.
Copies of the claims are available using the links below.
Fair Work Act Review
The new national workplace relations system, governed by the Fair Work Act 2009, commenced on 1 July 2009, with some elements coming into effect on 1 January 2010. The Fair Work Act governs national employment standards, modern awards, enterprise agreements and unfair dismissal, and is overseen by Fair Work Australia.
In 2012, the Government is conducting a review of the Fair Work Act and the Modern Awards, providing the first opportunity for farmers to give feedback on the impact of both the Act and the Awards on their operations.
The NFF has made 10 recommendations in its submission to the Fair Work Act review, including the need to reduce red tape, confusion and complexity within the Fair Work Act.
Farmers and the Fair Work Act 2009
From September 2009 through to mid-April 2010 the NFF, with support from the Australian Government, hosted 90 free seminars across regional Australia to help agricultural producers understand the changes to the workplace relations laws as a result of the Fair Work Act 2009.
The NFF provided educational materials, including the Fair Work Information Booklet for Agricultural Producers and a Modern Agriculture Awards Fact Sheet (both downloadable below), in addition to the seminars, so agricultural producers Australia-wide could access first-hand information explaining the national workplace relations laws.
The changes to the Australian workplace relations laws are significant and affect the day-to-day interaction between employers and employees.
Also available below is the Pastoral Award 2010 and the Horticulture Award 2010, both published in April 2009 and updated in August 2012. These Awards are also available to view via the Fair Work Australia website.
Overseas workers and skilled migration
Overseas workers play a small but important part in the Australian agricultural industry, helping farmers fill labour shortages at peak times when local labour is difficult to access. Migration programs are designed to be secondary sources of labour, with employers looking to Australian workers first, before filling gaps with overseas workers where necessary.
In 2010-11, over 450 skilled overseas workers in the agricultural, forestry and fishing industry, such as farm managers, entered Australia through the temporary 457 visa program, and in the last three years, 300 skilled farmers and far managers have arrived as permanent residents through the Regional Skilled Migration Scheme (RSMS) from countries like South Africa, the Philippines and India.
To assist farmers seeking access to specialised semi-skilled overseas workers, the Department of Immigration and Citizenship has developed a fact sheet regarding labour agreements in agriculture, available to download below.
In addition to skilled workers, thousands of backpackers who arrive as working holiday makers travel around Australia following the harvest trail or other seasonal work.
The working holiday maker program assists industries like agriculture by allowing a second visa to be granted if the person worked in specific work in regional Australia.
For more on the NFF's position regarding overseas workers and skilled migration, view our recent submissions.
Seasonal Worker Program
As of July 2012, the Seasonal Worker Program for the Pacific Region and East Timor has become permanent.
The permanent scheme follows the successful Pacific Seasonal Workers Scheme Pilot in meeting the seasonal harvest needs of the Australia's horticulture industry.
The pilot scheme was established by the Australian Government and the NFF as a mutually beneficial program for farmers and employees: providing a workforce to meet the labour shortages in horticulture, while also providing new training and skills to employees from developing Pacific nations.
In 2008, the NFF proposed a Workforce from Abroad employment scheme targeted at horticulture, as this industry was identified as the area in which the greatest demand for entry-level employees existed. This proposal developed into the pilot scheme, which has played a vital role in filling the seasonal labour needs of Australia's fruit growers. Prior to the scheme, some 22,000 fruit picking jobs were left unfilled each year, costing Australian growers around $100,000 per crop per annum in rotting fruit.
The permanent program is open to employers in the horticulture industry, and, based on the success of the pilot, the Government has also announced a small-scale three-year trial for other agricultural industries including cotton and cane, both of which face severe labour shortages around their peak seasons.
To participate in the scheme, farmers are required to demonstrate that they cannot find enough local labour to meet the harvest requirements, must show their commitment to meeting Australian work standards and make a contribution to the worker’s travel costs.
Countries including East Timor, Kiribati, Nauru, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu and Vanuatu have been invited to participate in the Seasonal Worker Program.
To enquiry about joining the Seasonal Workers Program for the Pacific Region and East Timor as an employer or employee, visit the Program website.
Farm safety and Farmsafe
Ensuring the safety of Australian farmers and farming families is a priority for the NFF. A founding member of Farmsafe Australia and an active participant in National Farm Safety Week, the NFF shares the Farmsafe vision of: productive Australian farms free from health and safety risks.
The NFF has been particularly active on the issue of quad bike safety on Australian farms over the past few years. Quad bikes are an important piece of farm machinery, but they are also the leading cause of on-farm vehicle-related deaths in Australia, and the main cause of fatal injuries in children aged 5-14 on farms.
The NFF has always favoured an education rather than regulation approach to quad bike safety on farms, however the Government's recent push towards legislation in this area has prompted the NFF to call for an increased focus on roll-over protection or crush protection devices, fitted at the point of manufacture or sale.
A research study into the safety of such devices is currently underway and the NFF will review its position once the findings have been released.
For more on NFF's position re farm safety, read our recent submissions.
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