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Backpackers do not work for free.

UnderpaymentsSeptember 26, 2016

Backpackers do not work for free. (Last Updated On: September 26, 2016)

A farm in South-East Queensland has signed a workplace pact after they were found to have underpaid more than 90 Korean backpackers thousands of dollars.

The backpackers, who were on 417 working holiday visas, were employed by labour contractor Boonah Packing Pty Ltd. Boonah then supplied labour to Scott Moffatt & Co, (trading as Moffatt Fresh Produce), to sort and pack carrots on a farm at Tarome.

The Fair Work Ombudsman (FWO) investigated Moffatt Fresh Product and found the price they paid to Boonah Packaging Pty Ltd was sufficient to cover the minimum wages for the backpackers under the Horticulture Award 2010. However, the FWO conducted further investigation when they received a complaint from one employee who claimed he was being underpaid.

The FWO found that Boonah Packing Pty Ltd had unpaid almost 100 casual workers more than $16,000 from July 2015 to January 2016. They found the workers were sometimes paid a flat rate of $21.08 an hour, and at other times were paid piece rates.

Boonah Packing Pty Ltd did not have written piecework agreements in place, which means the backpackers were entitled to $21.61 for ordinary hours and $38.90 an hour on public holidays. Boonah Packing Pty Ltd also failed in their obligations to record and maintain proper records. This hindered the FWO’s assessment of whether or not some employees had been receiving their correct entitlements.

Boonah Packaging Pty Ltd cooperated with the FWO and agreed to promptly back-pay all moneys owed, as well as entering into an Enforceable Undertaking. This Enforceable Undertaking aims to encourage behavioural changes and future compliance with federal workplace laws.

Fruit and vegetable growers rely heavily on seasonal labour, and often these workers come from non-English speaking backgrounds, and may be unaware of their workplace rights. Unfortunately, this means there is a high risk that workers will be underpaid, sometimes quite deliberately.

As Australia’s leading workplace relations specialist, Employsure can assist if you are unsure if you are currently meeting your employment obligations or would like to discuss your employee wage rates. Contact Employsure today on 1300 651 415.

Sourced from the Fair Work Ombudsman

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