Employers will be required to pay overtime to casual workers from 15 April under changes to the Horticulture Award formally handed down yesterday by The Fair Work Commission.
The Commission has determined to adopt the ‘conciliated proposal’ with new requirements to take effect from the first full pay period on or after 15 April 2019.
While the changes were mooted by The Commission in their provision view, APAL expects the financial impact will not easily be accommodated by growers already under pressure.
Changes to the Horticulture Award have been the subject of intense lobbying efforts over the past four years by APAL, alongside the NFF Horticulture Council and Voice of Horticulture, all of whom called for an outcome that would reflect the short-term, volatile nature of horticulture’s harvest periods.
Further, the NFF Horticulture Council, of which APAL is a member, has been strongly arguing that the significant financial impact and the need to “prepare for, manage and find ways to absorb this financial impact” warrants a staggered, or at least very lengthy transition period for changes to come into effect.
The Commission, however, has set aside this argument, being of the view that “the industry has been on notice of the intention to introduce over payments for employees covered by the Horticulture Award since mid-2017. This was first stated in our principal decision which was issued on 5 July 2017, was reiterated in our August 2018 decision, and was reflected in the draft determination issued on 30 August 2018. For this reason we consider that a transitional period is unnecessary.”
In addition, the Commission has declined to include the notes we suggested were necessary to confirm that the new arrangements will not apply to piece rate workers or enable a “double dipping” of the “night” penalty and the overtime penalty. In both cases the Commission was of the view that a note would be unnecessary, because the provisions are “clear and unambiguous”.
Finally, the Commission declined to accept a submission made by the unions to include a provision — which mirrors the present cl 24.2(e) — to “make it clear that casual employees continue to be entitled to be paid for a minimum of 3 hours if required to work on a Sunday”.
The Commission was not convinced that the existing clause applies to casual employees and “[a]gainst that background and having regard to the terms of clause 10.4(d) of the Horticulture Award we do not propose to adopt the Unions’ proposal.”
APAL is currently working through the implications of these changes for apple and pear growers and will issue a detailed update to growers in coming days.