THE horticulture industry has taken a step towards commanding its own terms when it comes to on-farm labour with the launch of the Fair Farms Initiative yesterday.
Assistant Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources, Anne Ruston, launched the initiative at Hort Connections 2017 in Adelaide, to full room of growers and others within the supply chain.
The program aims to not only inform about the importance of fair farm practices but also improve the horticulture industry’s reputation for fair workplace relations.
The initiative comprises five main components:
- A series of information articles on key workplace relations issues for publication in an array of industry magazines.
- The roll out of the Hort360 Workplace Relations best management practice (BMP) module nationally, over the next four years.
- Targeted regional seminars throughout Australia focusing on key areas of non-compliance.
- The development, through Freshcare, of a voluntary third-party Audited Certification for growers to enable them to demonstrate compliance.
- Development of a pathway to qualifications in Human Resources for interested growers.
- Queensland-based Growcom has been the main driver behind the initiative with support from the National Farmers Federation, The Voice of Horticulture, the Queensland Horticulture Council and Freshcare.
Ms Ruston said it was always great to see industries showing leadership.
“I deal first-hand with many growers across the nation, and I know that the vast majority of growers work hard to do the right thing, treating their workers fairly and complying with workplace laws," she said.
“It is extremely unfortunate that the reputation of this fantastic industry that has been built by hardworking Aussies has been negatively affected by the actions of a few."
Growcom chief advocate, Rachel MacKenzie, said Fair Farms would give production horticulture growers tools to ensure workers were treated fairly
She said it would also give them the ability to communicate this to consumers through third-party certification.
“Fair Farms Initiative is being rolled out nationally with the aim to help restore both consumer and public confidence in the horticulture sector’s labour practices,” she said.
“Growcom is showing sector-wide leadership with this proactive approach to tackling the horticulture sector’s well-publicised challenges.”
Ms Ruston echoed that thought.
“It will also help to restore the reputation of the horticulture sector, so that consumers and the wider public can be confident that the sector takes an ethical approach to workplace relations,” she said.
The Fair Farms Initiative is funded by the Australian Government through the Fair Work Ombudsman’s Community Engagement Grants Program.