Seasonal agricultural workers in Australia are no longer paid by publication, but only by the hour. It is a practice that some describe as “significantly lower pay”, while others see it as a bulwark against manpower shortages.
In his orchard, which is planted with fruit-bearing cherry trees, Australian archaeologist Michael Kuni praised the payment for the harvest. Seasonal workers. “It’s a system that makes sense. If you roll up your sleeves, you can make good money. If you’re lazy, this would not be the case.”
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“Significantly lower wages” for seasonal workers
This year, thanks to the abundant rains and good health of the trees, “we want to have the biggest cherries”, this farmer who cultivates 50 hectares of orchard in the southeast of the country is delighted. By choosing the time in early December, he will usually hire about 50 people. Like most Australian horticultural farms, it pays its seasonal workers through publication.
But this payment method was recently questioned by the Fair Work Commission, an Australian labor tribunal. One of the major trade unions in the country, TheAustralian Labor Union (AWU), which estimates that seasonal farm workers should be paid the minimum wage, which is A $ 25.41 an hour (about 16 euros).
According to the union, “evidence shows significantly lower wages of active workers in the horticulture sector.” Judgment opposed by major federations of farmers until November 26, 2021 to appeal.
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Anger of seasonal workers in Australia
According to a survey of more than 8,000 horticultural farms published by labor mediators in 2018, 56% of farms pay less to their employees. Because rolling your shirts is not always enough. As Victor, a young Frenchman, just like those coming to Australia Work Holiday Visa, 88 days to complete farm work to stay second year.
“I worked on the vines and had to wrap the branches around the wire. We were paid 11 cents per branch net. I was at 10% more than I paid, but I was only able to manage nine dollars an hour, less than half of the minimum wage,” he testified. This is the reason why Cedric, who is in his third year, has always “preferred farms that pay by the hour”.
All seasonal workers can “make money”
For three years full time on Michael Kunial’s farm, Remy oversees seasonal workers during the cherry harvest. “I have comrades who can collect 60 plates in one day and earn 700 Australian dollars (Editor’s note: 450 euros) while the others have only 9 plates in the same orchard. The difference is due to motivation. “
“Of course, there are farms where even the good ones do not make money because there is not enough fruit or the farm is poorly maintained,” he adds. But when there are some people who can make money, anyone can make money. “
Michael Cunningham is concerned about the upcoming changes. “Seasonal workers who do not immediately trick me in, if we change to pay by the hour, I have to leave with them after half a day. But the optimal cherry picking time is only three to five days. If I can not change them quickly, part of my fruit will rot on the stem …” , He laments.
Seasonal labor shortage
Michael Kunial saw this decision very badly because at the moment “we have a lot of problems recruiting”. Australia’s borders have been closed since March 2020 International spread, Not yet reopened to foreigners, especially young people on work holiday visas. They were nearly 120,000 in December 2019, but only 39,000 in 2020.
To attract these seasonal workers who have been in short supply, Michael Kunial raised his prices by “5 to 10%” last year. This year, he plans to add “a loyalty bonus of 5 to 10% for those who stay all season.”
The sector does not yet have manpower, while all crops combined, Australia expects agricultural production to be worth around A $ 73 billion (47 47 billion) in 2021-2022, an increase of 7%.