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Landmark wage decision for Australian farmers

5 July 2007

TODAY Australian farmers won an historic ruling as the Australian Fair Pay Commission (AFPC), for the first time, formally recognises the extenuating circumstances farmers face.

In an unprecedented decision, the National Farmers’ Federation (NFF) has won the automatic deferral of today’s wage increases – for a period of 12 months – for all farmers in receipt of an Exceptional Circumstances Interest Rate Subsidy due to drought.

The deferral is expected to apply to 21,000 Australian farmers.

“We made the point to the AFPC that while the economy, as a whole, has been travelling relatively well, Commissioners needed to take into consideration the dire consequences of drought for regional Australia,” NFF President David Crombie said. “Today, they did exactly that.

“The ability of farmers to defer the wage increases for 12 months is significant – particularly for those farmers looking to re-employ at what we hope for many is the beginning of the drought recovery process.

“The NFF successfully argued that any cost increase to the farming sector at this crucial time would result in extreme financial difficulties – it would hurt farmers already in difficulty and seriously dampen current employment levels, let alone new job prospects as the drought eases.

“Of course, it is acknowledged that the decision is simply a deferral for 12 months and that the wage increases announced today will come into affect for farmers after that period. But the extra time will be a significant boost to the rural economy and help farmers to emerge from drought with stronger and more vibrant businesses.”

As for the $10.26 per week average wage increase that will apply to those farmers not in receipt of an Exceptional Circumstance Interest Rate Subsidy, the NFF believes this is moderate and reasonable under the circumstances.

The NFF notes that all aspects of the AFPC’s decision will now flow-on to the Australian Industrial Relations Commission’s (AIRC’s) transitional awards, which cover most Australian farmers.

“The decision to implement the wage increase from 1 October 2007 should allow sufficient time to enable today’s decision to flow-on to the transitional awards and provide a reasonable lead time for farm businesses to be advised of specific pay rates applicable to each workplace,” Mr Crombie said.

“The NFF has been seeking recognition of the financial difficulties for farmers in wage determinations before the AIRC, and now the AFPC, for more than 20 years. We commend the consultative approach taken by the AFPC in consideration of the application by the NFF for a deferral of today’s wage increases.”

[ENDS]

Media Enquiries: Brett Heffernan on (02) 6273 3855 or 0408 448 250.

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