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Vulnerable working holiday makers: Blueberry farmer faces Court over alleged record-keeping failures

Sandy Beach blueberry farmer, Gurmakh Dosanjh, will face Court in Sydney over alleged record-keeping failures for dozens of overseas workers.

A spot check of Mr Dosanjh’s property by Fair Work Ombudsman (FWO) inspectors last November revealed the blueberry farmer only kept a record of the workers’ first names and quantity of buckets picked.

The majority of the 60 fruit pickers were young backpackers, many non-English speaking, who had undertaken seasonal work in the horticulture industry to qualify for an extension of their 417 working holiday visa.

It’s alleged that Mr Dosanjh failed to issue employees with pay-slips within one day of payment and failed to have written piecework agreements in place for employees paid per bucket.

The FWO initiated legal proceedings against Mr Dosanjh because of the blatant nature of the alleged contraventions relating to a significant number of vulnerable employees.

“Failing to keep records is a very serious matter,” Fair Work Ombudsman Natalie James said.

“The lack of proper records increases the risk of employee underpayments occurring,” she said. “It also hampers the ability of inspectors to accurately determine if employees are being paid correctly.”

Ms James said the FWO is devoting considerable resources to ensuring farms around the country relying on overseas labour are complying with workplace laws.

“We are conscious many fruit pickers are young overseas workers, who may be vulnerable if they are not fully aware of their rights, are reluctant to complain or face language barriers.”

Mr Dosanjh will face a maximum penalty of up to $10,200 for failing to have written piecework agreements in place and up to $5100 each for three other contraventions relating to record-keeping and pay-slips.

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Daniel Jacobs

Daniel Jacobs

Daniel Jacobs was editor of Dynamic Business.

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