Have your say about changes to the Hort Award!!!

Fair Work Commission – Modern Awards Update

Last week the NFF filed its claim to reduce the 3 hour minimum engagement in the dairy industry to 2 hours, to better align industry practices with the Pastoral Award. The claim was accompanied by a number of witness statements showing how the 3 hour limitation restricts flexibility and limits employment options, particularly for students and those with caring responsibilities. A copy of the NFF submission and witness statements can be found here.


At the same time, the ACTU has made a claim to increase the minimum engagement in all awards to 4 hours. The two claims will be dealt with together, along with a series of other claims (casuals electing to convert to permanent employment, overtime for casuals under the Horticulture Award and new restrictions on part-time and casual employment sought by the National Union of Workers). The Australian Workers Union and the National Union of Workers have both put in submissions calling for the Commission to clarify the right of overtime for casuals as they say the current Horticulture Award is not clear about whether overtime for casuals is applicable.  The NFF will defend the claim on the basis that the current approach where casuals are not entitled to overtime is deliberate, fair, relevant and appropriate to the horticulture industry. Granting the claim will have a major impact on the horticulture industry and NFF and Voice of Horticulture are working together to engage a Barrister to represent the industry and defend the claims. We will be looking to members to provide evidence to support our defence of the claim over coming months. Any members who are interested in supporting the NFF case are encouraged to spent some time putting pen to paper to answer one or more of the following questions and providing the responses back to Lis at the VFF:


For employers

1.       Describe the industry you work in

2.       Describe your business in general terms – what do you grow, how long have you been doing it, how many staff (full time, part-time, casual), staffing peaks and lows over the year and reasons why, who you sell your produce to ie our business supplies apples to a major Australian supermarket chain.

3.       Describe a typical working week in the low season in as much detail as you can – remember, Fair Work Commissioners mostly don’t understand the horticulture industry and we need to paint them a picture.

4.       Describe a typical working week in the high season (as above).

5.       Explain the commercial and seasonal pressures on your business and how these vary over the year eg. we have fixed price contracts and can’t increase the price of our produce; cashflow is tight; if we don’t get the crop off in the harvest X happens; we are competing with X; the weather can have a major impact etc.

6.       Describe how you manage labour needs over the year. How do you find staff and how hard is it in your area; what sort of people tend to apply for the work you have on offer; how many hours are worked in a typical day/week in peak season; what type of work / work flexibility do your employees want?  

7.       Explain why part-time and casual employment is important to your business.

8.       What will you do if the rules change and you have to pay overtime to casuals?

9.       If you made no rostering changes, how much would this cost your business in overall terms?

10.   What will you do if a new 4 hour minimum engagement rule comes in? Did you previously have a minimum engagement and what did this mean for your business and your staff?

For employees

Are any of your employees interested in making a statement about how some of these changes would affect them? Here are some questions they might like to answer.

11.   Why do you work for this business?

12.   What made you apply for the work?

13.   What hours do you work?

14.   Are you happy with your current hours of work?

15.   How does your work fit in with your other commitments (school, second job, study, caring etc.)

16.   How would you feel if your employer made changes to the business so that you got less hours, or had to stay for longer even if there was no work to do?

17.   How would this affect you?


As the modern award review progresses, it is becoming clear that the process will establish a series of test cases on claims being made. That is, a claim made about only a few awards can easily result in a new model term that applies to all awards. This is despite there being a lack of evidence in relation to a particular issue to demonstrate that the change is warranted.


For example, the Horticulture Award and Wine Industry Award have now been varied to include an obligation to pay accident make-up pay for the first 26 weeks of workers compensation. The NFF opposed these claims, because not a single piece of evidence was led in the proceedings about the need for accident pay in the agriculture sector. Despite this, the Commission granted the claims. The draft determination varying the Horticulture Award can be found here.


Hearings continue in relation to whether annual leave and time off in lieu of overtime terms should be varied in all awards or just those that were initially subject to a claim. The NFF is seeking to exclude the agricultural awards from new model terms, which are less flexible and more prescriptive than current arrangements. Further hearings are scheduled in October and December to resolve the matters.


For more information about the modern award review, please contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..