FARMERS have welcomed $1.5 million in ongoing funding for the Fair Farms initiative.
Growcom chief advocate Rachel Mackenzie said the funding allocation gave industry an opportunity to roll out a practical market recognition scheme that enables farm businesses to demonstrate that their employment practices complied with Australian laws and industry standards.
"Growcom has long been a champion of treating workers fairly in the horticulture industry and continues to make significant steps in assisting growers to meet and demonstrate compliance with workplace legislation,” Ms Mackenzie said.
"We have a zero tolerance for worker exploitation and want to give good growers the tools to differentiate themselves in the market place."
The funding announced by Prime Minister Scott Morrison today (Monday).
Growcom has commenced the pilot of the national Fair Farms certification and training, which will give growers the tools they need to treat their workers fairly as well as restoring confidence to customers and the wider community. Full roll out is expected in early 2019.
"Growcom has worked closely with state and national horticulture industry groups, retailers and supply chain stakeholders to ensure the initiative meets the needs of all industry members," Ms Mackenzie said.
The Fair Farms certification scheme offers:
- A code of practice that clearly outlines what farm businesses must do to comply with employment laws and industry standards.
- An online self-assessment against the code.
- Training options.
- Third party auditing and certification, if required.
The Fair Farms announcement was made alongside the Mr Morrison’s release of his three point plan for addressing the horticulture industry's workforce needs.
"Growcom welcomes the acknowledgement of the labour challenges facing the industry and is pleased to see government taking steps to address the issue," Ms Mackenzie said.
"In particular we are pleased to see reforms to the Seasonal Worker Program, the work and holiday visa (462) and the working holiday visa (417) which will give growers access to a larger pool of workers over a longer period of time.
"We see these announcements as the beginning of a conversation on how to improve visa settings, whilst at the same time ensuring that all workers are treated appropriately.
"The allocation of funds for an industry workforce coordinator will ensure a whole of workforce solution to our labour issues and we look forward to delivering on this on behalf of the horticulture industry and the Australian government.
"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."