The industry owned Fair Farms training and certification scheme tackles worker exploitation head on and is critical to address the issues raised by the Fair Work Ombudsman’s (FWO’s) Harvest Trail report.
Growcom has been developing the scheme for the last two years in response to requests from growers who are sick of the sector’s reputation being dragged into the mud by poor operators.
Growcom Chief Advocate, Rachel Mackenzie said that good growers are tired of being undercut by those who don’t pay their workers properly or use illegal workers.
“The Fair Farms training and certification program is designed to effectively shut out the dodgy growers from the supply chain through an independent third-party audit mechanism supported by training,” Ms Mackenzie said.
“The scheme, which has seen good support from the major retailers, is in its pilot phase and will be fully operational by early 2019.
“The Harvest Trail report sadly highlights the need for the Fair Farms scheme and other programs like the RCSA, StaffSure certification which covers labour hire companies.
“Growcom has long had a zero tolerance for worker exploitation and has trained thousands of growers throughout Australia in the last decade to better understand their workplace obligations.
“Whilst the figures in the report are very concerning, there are still a significant number of growers who are fully compliant, and we want to reward these growers through the certification mechanism within Fair Farms.
“Growcom will continue to work closely with the Fair Work Ombudsman to implement the recommendations of the report but we will also push for the development of a horticulture workforce strategy to address some of the underlying labour supply issues within the sector.
“Fundamentally, we want to make it easy for good growers to get good workers so the Australian public can get good fresh produce.
“The Fair Farms training and certification scheme gives industry the tools to shut the willfully non-compliant out of the system.
“The Australian government recently announced a $1.5 million allocation for the Fair Farms scheme to fast track the scheme nationally and look at expanding into other parts of agriculture.”
The Fair Farms Initiative is being delivered by Growcom with seed funding from the Fair Work Ombudsman through the Community Engagement Grants Program.