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18/09/2009

Letter to the editor: Wine Industry Award 2010 to increase grape production cost

I wish to write in support of the excellent comments made by Stephen Wilkins in regard to the “modernised” Wine Industry Award, and add a vineyard perspective.

In a similar manner Stephen described with employees seeking work at cellar door outlets, many casual vineyard employees seek work during harvest for harvest contractors or wine grape growers.

They actively seek this work due to the shift loading, and the ability to earn considerable income over a relatively short time.

There is a similar philosophical argument here about what is just compensation that should be paid to an employee actively looking for work at these times that are outside what is deemed “normal” hours of work under the new award.

There is the added point that it is a contractual obligation for many growers to harvest at a time specified by their winery customer.

I would question whether it is fair and reasonable to impose such heavy penalty rates on an employer where work hours exist due to a contractual obligation.

Another problem exists with the planned abolition of piece rate pay.

Our company has paid a fair piece rate in the past for pruning, a fact verified by the numbers of returning workers we have every season, and the ability of all to earn well in excess of the award hourly pay rate.

No fair-minded person wants to see workers exploited, but surely if a piece rate is too low, that employer will not be able to attract or retain workers.

We are now faced with a return to the “bad old days” – huge gangs of pruners working to the pace of the slowest pruner, as the incentive to apply more than minimal effort will have disappeared.

To further echo Stephen’s point, I can see no other outcome than a significant increase in the cost of grape production at a time when those in the industry are under more pressure than any other point in our history.

I am a fan of simplification, but surely this is throwing the baby out with the bath water.

Andrew Weeks

Vineyard Manager

Jubilee Park Vineyards

South Australia

AWRI

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Bayer

WID 2016