A Fair Work Ombudsman Inquiry into workplaces along Australia’s Harvest Trail has found widespread non-compliance, with inspectors recovering more than $1 million in unpaid wages for over 2,500 workers.
During the inquiry, the FWO took court action against eight employers for serious alleged breaches of the Fair Work Act, with four actions involving labour hire contractors. Six matters have now been finalised resulting in over $500,000 in penalties, and two remain before court.
Fair Work Inspectors also issued 150 formal cautions to employers, 132 infringement notices and 13 compliance notices for breaches of workplace laws during the inquiry, and entered into seven Enforceable Undertakings.
As part of the inquiry, inspectors investigated 638 businesses connected with the harvesting of various crops including citrus, grapes, strawberries, cherries, mushrooms, apples and tomatoes. There were 444 growers and 194 labour hire contractors investigated.
Inspectors found over half of these businesses breached workplace laws, including deliberate and significant underpayments of base pay rates, falsification of records, deliberate withholding of payslips, non-payments and unauthorised deductions.
Some businesses were randomly selected, while other employers were targeted based on intelligence gathered from stakeholders including industry, government agencies and workplace participants. Several employers with ongoing compliance issues were investigated multiple times.
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