QUALITY: Forest Hill farmer Mitch Brimblecombe, Moira Farms, inspects some broccoli, while contract workers harvest in the background.
QUALITY: Forest Hill farmer Mitch Brimblecombe, Moira Farms, inspects some broccoli, while contract workers harvest in the background. ALI KUCHEL

Contractor laws provide protection for hort industry

GROWERS are feeling more secure about hiring contract workers thanks to the new mandatory labour hire licensing laws.

Following the first Lockyer Valley contractor to have its licence suspended last week, Forest Hill vegetable grower Mitch Brimblecombe said it was a step in the right direction for the industry.

The farm manager at Moira Farming said the new laws gave growers confidence and certainty in hiring contract workers knowing everything was "above board".

"It really sets and creates a standard for the horticultural industry and labour hire companies to operate from," Mr Brimblecombe said.

"Previously there have been implications on the employer, even if they didn't employ the workers directly."

Moira Farming employs about 15 contract workers during its peak production times, to harvest, chip, plant and pack at the Forest Hill and Kalbar farms.

The new laws require contractors to pay staff the appropriate wages, including tax and superannuation, as well as housing workers in appropriate accommodation.

With Lockyer Valley producers relying heavily on workers supplied by contractors, Mr Brimblecombe said there was "no way" farms would use contractors that were not licensed.

-State moves to shut down Lockyer Valley labour hire company

"It really weeds them out (dodgy contractors) and sets a standard for us and the industry," he said.

The new laws not only help growers but also protect the image of horticulture in the Lockyer Valley.

Qualipac director Troy Qualischefski does not use contract workers at the College View farm, but said the laws were vital.

"At the end of the day we want people to keep coming back to the Lockyer Valley and have a good experience here," Mr Qualischefski said.

"If they come and have a bad experience, they probably tell 200 people on their way back home, and it's not a good image."

He said an industry which relied heavily on people to harvest and pack crops would be "mad" not to have rules in place that make experiences better for contract workers.

Lockyer Valley mayor Tanya Milligan welcomed the first licence disqualifi- cation, and said the laws were developed for a reason.

"I hope that it sends a really strong message to anyone that's dodgy, that doesn't want to do the right thing - that we don't want you here," she said.


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