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Bundaberg Horticulture Industry Targeted By Fair Work Wage Theft Sting

Bundaberg horticulture industry targeted by Fair Work wage theft sting

Businesses in Queensland’s Wide Bay region are being targeted by Fair Work inspectors, after complaints of underpayments in the horticulture industry in the area.

About 40 businesses are being audited as part of the operation, including farms, labour hire contractors and accommodation providers in Bundaberg, Childers and Mundubbera.

The operation began on Tuesday, and involves inspectors checking if businesses are paying their workers proper wages and entitlements, issuing pay slips and keeping accurate records.

Region high risk for non-compliance

According to the Fair Work Ombudsman, the Wide Bay region is one of the highest risk horticultural regions in the country for non-compliance.

The large number of farms in the area attract working holiday visa holders hoping to extent their visa beyond one year through compulsory regional work.

Some of the businesses being targeted this week include ones that were found to be non-compliant during the Fair Work Ombudsman’s Harvest Trail Inquiry last year, which found widespread non-compliance with workplace laws across the horticulture industry nationally.

The Inquiry found that investigations in the Wide Bay region uncovered workplace breaches in 74 per cent of cases, well above the national average of 55 per cent.

In addition to checking records, inspectors have been interviewing growers, contractors and workers to check staff are being paid correctly.

Audits welcomed

Miles Heffernan, Litigation Director at welcomed the action by the workplace watchdog.

“It’s always encouraging to see the regulator responsible for enforcing workplace laws doing some enforcement,” he said.

“In the past, the Ombudsman spent too much time and money educating dodgy employers, instead of issuing them with penalties or taking them to court, but since Sandra Parker has taken over the agency, there has definitely been a major improvement with the agency changing its focus to enforcement, which has been good to see.

“While these targeted audits won’t solve the wage theft crisis plaguing the country, they certainly play an important role in cracking down on greedy bosses who think it’s okay to rip off their workers.”

If you have not received your proper wages and entitlements, or are considering legal action to recover stolen wages, we can help.

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