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Union turf war looks to deny Aussie farmers access to Coles & Woolies

27 February 2017

The National Union of Workers (NUW) is threatening to restrict Australian fruit and vegetable farmers from trading with major supermarkets as part of its turf war with the Australian Workers Union.

In an editorial published on farmonline today National Farmers’ Federation President Fiona Simson has exposed the ‘arrogant’ tactics of the NUW in holding farm horticulture workers to ransom.

“The NUW’s 'Fair Food Campaign’ seeks to limit Australian farmers’ ability to trade with Coles and Woolworths by instigating ‘Fair Food Agreements’ with the two leading supermarket chains,” Ms Simson said.

Agreements would set the wages and conditions paid by farmers who supply Coles and Woolworths, and supermarkets would be encouraged only to source produce from farmers who have union agreements and employ workers directly or only use union-approved contractors.

Farm business who don’t adhere to the union’s demands and who do not feature on the ‘Fair Food Farmers’ list would be effectively frozen out of dealing with, in some cases, their main market.

Ms Simson said the sad irony was that the NUW does not have the right to represent the ‘interests’ of all horticulture farm workers.

“The Australian Workers Union has always had coverage of the agricultural workforce, but the NUW isn’t letting details like this faze them – they have the extraordinary power of the Fair Work Act 2009 behind them and they are not afraid to use it.”

Ms Simson said if the NUW was successful in establishing the ‘Fair Food Farmer’ list it would have dire consequences for the nation’s horticulture industry.

“The debate around workplace relations reform has stalled in this country because it’s a hard sell. It means staring down powerful unions. Right of entry rules need to change, and workplace bargaining needs to be actually worth it for employers.

"Power imbalances should not be able to be exploited so that farmers, who are at the very beginning of the supply chain, wear all the costs," Ms Simson said.

“At the end of the day, the Fair Work Act and the organisations that it empowers need to uphold the value of fairness for all – not just for some.”

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