Growcom has long been a champion of treating workers fairly in the horticulture industry and has recently made significant steps in assisting growers to meet and demonstrate their compliance with workplace legislation.
In recent weeks we participated in the Freedom Links workshop and Farm Ready launch in Gatton and also in the Social Cohesion Steering Committee meeting while visiting growers in Mundubbera.
We had valuable engagement with the Lockyer Valley Regional Council, Salvation Army Freedom Partnership, North Burnett Regional Council, National Farmers’ Federation, citrus growers and the Tongan community involved with the Seasonal Workers Programme.
We also started piloting our Fair Employment certification training, which will give growers a mechanism to gain third party audited Freshcare certification under our Fair Farms Initiative.
This involved trialling our Hort360 Workplace Relations module with Gold Coast Hinterland salad and herb grower and Growcom director Belinda Adams as the training tool to underpin the Freshcare certification. We expect to progress to the audit stage of the pilot with Belinda and other growers in early 2018.
Whilst we recognise the issues within the industry we would also like to acknowledge that many growers go above and beyond every day to treat their workers fairly.
It is disheartening for the industry each time a new story emerges about the exploitation of workers on farms, and the increasing discussions around modern day slavery within production horticulture.
Growcom, of course, supports all moves to stamp out the unfair treatment of workers and is working with all stakeholders in the best interests of the industry as a whole.
There is nothing we and our growers want more than to have a reliable workforce and for that workforce to be ethically and fairly employed.
We must note how crucial it is that all parties involved deal in facts amid what can be a complex and emotive issue.
There are enough challenges around securing a workforce for our growers, particularly during peak times, without the added weight of stories which reflect poorly on our industry despite often not directly involving growers at all.