The Victorian Farmers Federation is dismayed at the passage of the Wage Theft Bill 2020.
VFF Vice President Emma Germano said “farmers are honest, hardworking people who treat their
employees with respect and are committed to ensuring that they receive income and benefits as
they are entitled to under the law.
“We already have one of the most complex industrial relations systems in the world. This Bill adds a
level of complexity and unnecessary duplication that will exist only in Victoria.
“Our very real concern is that farmers could be captured by this Bill and unfairly punished for
inadvertent errors simply due to the two track approach to industrial relations.
“Equally, we are worried that burdensome regulatory compliance acts as a disincentive for business
owners to employ staff. This disincentive means that farmers and their families do the work which
staff could be employed to do. Doing all the work themselves means that farmers run a greater
OH&S risk, due to long hours, than they would otherwise run,” Ms Germano said.
The VFF’s opposition to the Bill has been supported by every peak industry and business group in
VFF wrote to the cross bench Members of Parliament to ensure they understood the legitimate
concerns with the Bill.
Where there are shortcomings in existing laws, the VFF believes government should focus on
strengthening enforcement, improving education and understanding of the law, and untangling
complex laws which contribute to non-compliance.
“In this post COVID environment, we need certainty. The VFF will support initiatives that remove
complexity, duplication and unnecessary burdens on our farmers. This legislation falls well short of
that,” Ms Germano said.
To make matters even more confusing, the Federal Government’s proposed legislation that
addresses wage underpayment, deliberate worker exploitation and introduces significant jail terms
and fines could override the Victorian legislation.
There is a real risk that this proposed law could face constitutional challenges based on an
inconsistency between a state law and a Commonwealth law.
“We are disappointed that the Andrews Government did not listen to the common sense calls of the
business sector. This is all the more important as Victoria looks to create jobs to recover from the
COVID-19 outbreak”, Ms Germano said.
Amelia Bitsis, Victorian Farmers Federation, 0429 827 604