Why Australian fruit farmers are suffering from harvest headaches.

In perfect conditions, thanks to abundant rain and healthy trees, Australian fruit-growing Michael Cunnel Cherry Garden seems to be producing a lot of fruit. There is only one problem: the harvest.

According to many farmers in Australia, it relies on seasonal workers during the harvest season, many of whom have closed their overseas borders in March 2020 to curb the spread of cholera.

Even if they find a worker for the cherry harvest, they may be paid more than in previous years.

In conjunction with most Australian fruit growers, Cunial has paid the price for seasonal workers. But the system has resulted in many workers earning less than the minimum wage, so the rules are about to change.

“The one-piece rate system makes sense,” said the fruit-growing man, who drove about four hours from Sydney on the 50 ha farm in Curtina Orchids in Nashdale.

“If you want to go, you can make good money. And if you are hopeless, you will not.”Most Australian horticultural farms pay their current employees on a whim, but this method of payment has recently been in question.

Cunial said it expects “really big” cherries this year, which will probably be ready for harvest in early December and mid-December.

It hires about 50 seasonal workers for the annual harvest.

However, the system was overturned by the Fair Work Commission, the Australian Industrial Relations Court.

Below the minimum wage

In a decision on the Australian Trade Union Confederation, he said current farm workers should receive a minimum hourly wage of AUD $ 25.41 (RM77).

“The total data shows a very low pay for workers in the fruit and vegetable industry compared to the minimum wage,” the commission said.

Opposition parties have stated they will not run in the by-elections until November 26.

According to a 2018 study by Fair Work Ombudsman on more than 8,000 horticultural farms, 56% pay less to their employees.

Working hard is not always enough.

Victor, a young Frenchman, chose not to give his full name to protect his employment opportunities and had to work 88 days on a farm for a second year – a pre-holiday visa.

“I worked in the vineyards. I had to wrap the branches in wire. We were paid 11 cents (RM0.33). I was 10% and I still got AU $ 9 (RM27.30). Hour, less than half the minimum wage,” he said.Workers inspecting cherries at a cherry farm in Nashdale.Workers inspecting cherries at a cherry farm in Nashdale.

Cedric Gestin, a third-year French worker in Australia, says he always prefers an hourly farm.

After working full-time for three years at Cunial’s cherry orchard, Remy Paradise leads the current staff.

“I have found men who fill 60 boxes, who earn AU $ 700 (RM2,121) a day and others who only fill nine ears in the same field. The difference is motivation,” he said.

“Of course there are farms where even good people do not make enough money because there is not enough fruit or the farm is doing bad work. But some people can make money where everyone can make money.”

Better rates

Cunial said he was concerned about the possibility of laying off employees who would not be adequately selected if there was a shift to pay.

“We are going to monitor them. And maybe in half a day, if this decision is successful, we will have to release people,” he said.

“Cherries have a window of five days to a week if you are lucky enough to get them out of a tree.

Cunial has another challenge.

In December 2019, nearly 120,000 Australian youth work visas will be reduced to ,000 39,000 by 2020.

Manpower shortages are in line with the expected agricultural output, which is expected to cost AU $ 73 billion (RM221 billion) for all crops during the 2021-2022 cropping season – up 7 percent from last year.

To attract current workers to the farm, Cunial increased its price from 5% to 10% last year.

This year, he may have to go further.

He said we might consider a loyalty bonus of up to 10% for current employees. – AFP Relaxnews

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