Future Food programs to accelerate Brisbane businesses

Brisbane is getting behind its food and beverage innovators with Lord Mayor Graham Quirk inviting businesses to participate in new accelerator programs to help them grow and reach global markets.

Launched today at a Future Food Brisbane “boot camp”, the suite of workshops and programs are designed for a range of food businesses from start-ups to established businesses.

Cr Quirk said the Future Food Brisbane programs were part of the city’s strategy to drive investment and job growth in the food and agribusiness sector.

“Brisbane and its surrounds are recognised for producing delicious high-quality produce, and combined with our robust supply chain infrastructure, research capability and support for start-ups, we are seeing more innovative food products and ideas emerge,” he said.

“There is a hunger from Brisbane’s food community to expand their capabilities, capacity and expertise and the Future Food Brisbane initiative will deliver a range of targeted education and industry development advice to help them achieve this.

“Growing Brisbane’s food and agribusiness industry is a priority of the Brisbane 2022 New World City Action Plan for economic growth, which is why we want to help our local food and beverage businesses to prosper.”

Developed by the city’s economic development board Brisbane Marketing, the Future Food Brisbane initiative includes the following opportunities for businesses and entrepreneurs:

  • Future Food Global Readiness Accelerator: An eight-week program run by professional services company KPMG for businesses with existing products and high-growth potential.
  • Future Food Product Development and Market Readiness Incubator: An eight-week program run by corporate services company Bentleys for businesses at an early stage of development.
  • Startup Launchpad: An eight-week program for businesses at the concept development or startup stage, presented by SilverChef in conjunction with Wandering Cooks.
  • Industry development workshops and seminars covering important aspects of food and beverage commercialisation, from e-commerce to IP protection.

Cr Quirk said Brisbane had everything it took to become Australia’s home of food innovation.

“Brisbane has the facilities, infrastructure and networks to support local food and beverage businesses to tap into national and international markets,” he said.

“Collaboration with councils and industry across South East Queensland is also critical to this initiative and the overall success of our region.

“Under the ethos of ‘building local to grow global’, Future Food Brisbane will assist businesses and entrepreneurs gain information, advice, mentoring and industry connections under a range of workshops and programs run by industry experts.”

Shot in the arm for Sunshine Coast food and beverage makers

Some of the most innovative food and beverage brands on the Sunshine Coast with high growth potential have been selected for the 2018 Grow Coastal program to help commercialise new products and scale their businesses.

Now in its 2nd year, the Grow Coastal program offers emerging businesses support with connections, expertise, seed capital and mentoring, and are helping to inspire and transform the local food industry.

After extensive interest in the program, 20 businesses were shortlisted based on innovation, product viability, growth potential and entrepreneurial tenacity.  Competing for just 12 final places, applicants participated in a one day bootcamp and product showcasing event on 30 January 2018.

The following businesses who have been chosen for entry into the 2018 Grow Coastal Accelerator Program: Barenuts, Black Lemonade, Boneafide Broth Co, Embassy XO, Good Harvest Organic Farm, Hive Haven, KOKOPOD Chocolate, LuvaBerry, Mighty Bean, Sunshine Coast Cider, The Whole Food Artisan, Ugly Duck Preserves

With funding from Advance Queensland, 12 businesses will access over $10,000 in value via the catalytic 12 week accelerator program, designed specifically for producers looking to scale fast, bring their vision to life and deliver new food and beverage innovations to the world.

“The Sunshine Coast has a strong reputation for quality food and I am excited to see that the 12 selected companies (and their teams) have big hearts and big plans to disrupt and inspire the Australian food industry,” said Innovation Centre CEO Mark Paddenburg.

“Recent feedback from the 2017 cohort shows that the Grow Coastal Program has made a difference with a total of 17 new staff employed, a 130 per cent increase in customer numbers, an 85 per cent increase in revenue with two companies more than doubling their revenue over the last 12 months.”

 

Food businesses among finalists in export awards

Several businesses from within the food and beverage sector have been named finalists in the Premier of QLD’s Export Awards.

The finalists in the Agribusiness category are AGT Foods Australia, Australian Country Choice, BNY Trading, and CJ Nutracon.

Elsewhere in the finalists list, soft serve ice cream maker Frosty Boy Australia made the cut in both the Business Services and Manufacturing categories, while AGT Foods Australia is a finalist in the Regional Exporter category.

The Export Council of Australia would like to congratulate the finalists announced for the 2017 Premier of Queensland’s Export Awards. As exporters from across the state compete for 12 industry categories the program celebrates business excellence in international trade.

“The QLD Export Awards are about rewarding businesses that have shown a commitment and determination to grow their global business and who, against adversity, seek new innovative ways to compete on the international stage,” said Chief Executive Officer for the Export Council of Australia (ECA) Lisa McAuley.

“The competition is extremely tough and we are thrilled to see a number of new names recognised for their tremendous efforts. It’s fantastic to also see the diversity of the companies that entered the awards this year.

As Australia enters negotiations over a free trade agreement (FTA) with the Pacific Alliance, an excellent opportunity emerges to place these countries top-of-mind among Australian companies evaluating new market and diversification opportunities.

These negations come at an opportune moment given numerous positive developments in the Australia- Latin America relationship. We look forward to a great event that recognises our QLD champions and looks at the new growth opportunities for the state this in this important region,” said McAuley.

The awards ceremony will be held on Thursday 19 October at the Brisbane Convention and Exhibition Centre Southbank with both the Honourable Annastacia Palaszczuk MP, Premier of Queensland, Minister for the Arts and the Honourable Curtis Pitt, Queensland Treasurer and Minister for Trade & Investment as guests of honour.

Unilever buys Aussie ice cream company Weis

Multinational food giant Uniliver has purchased Weis, the 60 year-old Australian maker of the iconic mango and cream ice cream bar.

Weis was founded in 1957 by Les Weis with the original iconic Fruito Bar. Its unique range features a variety of formats including single bar, multi-pack bars, dairy-free sorbet tubs and frozen yogurt tubs. Weis ice creams continue to be made in its factory in Toowoomba, Queensland, using locally sourced, natural and high-quality ingredients.

“We are committed to providing Weis consumers and customers with the same exceptional products with the same high quality natural ingredients and we are pleased to be continuing its manufacturing operation here in Toowoomba. We look forward to welcoming Weis’ strong, dedicated and passionate team to Unilever,” said Clive Stiff, Unilever Australia & New Zealand CEO.

Stiff pointed out that another of Unilever’s ice crean brands, Streets, was created in Australia by Edwin ‘Ted’ Street in the 1920s and that ice cream is strategically important to Unilever Australia.

“Our family made this decision because Unilever demonstrated their understanding of our brand, our products and how important our people and the Toowoomba manufacturing site are in ensuring Weis’ success into the future,” said Weis Managing Director, Julie Weis.

“In addition Unilever’s scale will enable greater market access and growth that will provide opportunities for our extended Weis family of staff, suppliers, customers and of course our wonderful consumers. “

The acquisition is subject to customary closing conditions. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Owner denies closure of iconic XXXX brewery

Japanese beverage company Lion has denied claims that the XXXX Brisbane brewery will be closing, following reports that the facility would be shut due to pay disputes.

Lion spokesperson Dan Holland has assured that the brewery will not be closing and is in fact looking to hire five more people.

“There are no job losses or changes,” he said in a statement, adding that the company was “actually hiring five more permanent people”, not firing workers.

“In fact, there will be pay offers on the table – on top of the best pay and work conditions in brewing in Queensland,” said Holland.

However, United Voice coordinator Damien Davies claimed workers at the Castlemaine Perkins brewery in Milton had received threats that the plant would close if negotiations to eliminate full-time jobs in favour of labour-hire, part-time and casual positions were not successful.

Referring to the five new positions which Lion has claimed to be hiring for, Davies has alleged that these are part-time positions which will replace full-time roles. He has called upon Lion to put its claims in writing and commit to full-time jobs in its Queensland brewery.

Qld pet treat manufacturer expands exports

Sunshine Coast pet treat business Huds and Toke has expanded into the Japanese market, after receiving a government grant in April.

The family business started four years ago, manufacturing high-quality dog, horse and cat treats in Queensland.

After receiving $90,000 under the state government’s Advance Queensland Ignite Ideas Fund, the company has made plans to invest in building a supply chain and an e-commerce platform to boost its exports.

The company has announced it will enter the Japanese pet industry market within a week. Huds and Toke currently delivers to more than 800 stores throughout Australia and exports to Germany.

According to Innovation Minister Leanne Enoch, small business is “where all the action will be in the future”.

“Big businesses are not employing the way they used to and small business is where we will see the greatest number of employment opportunities in the future,” she told the Sydney Morning Herald.

Qld kangaroo meat processing ramps up with new facilty

Barco Queensland has opened a new kangaroo meat processing plant in Charleville to produce meat for human consumption and pet food.

The company has secured contracts to supply to food service, small goods companies and an Australian independent supermarket chain.

Barco Queensland is owned by Gold Coast-based pet food manufacturer Millennium Pet Foods. The plant will start out processing 1000 kangaroos per week, however general manager Daniel McGettigan expects this number to quadruple.

“The demand is very big, very big,” McGettigan told the ABC.

“I really, personally think in a matter of a few months we could be killing 3000 to 4000 ‘roos a week and not have any trouble dispersing of the product.”

Barco Queensland intends to produce kangaroo meat for human consumption and pet food.

The company is currently supplying cuts directly for food service in Sydney, and remains such as trim for small goods companies that distribute to Brisbane and Sydney. It has also secured contracts with wholesale produce distributor Metcash, which owns IGA supermarkets.

Additionally, the abattoir is processing 30 to 40 wild boars each week, which go direct into food service in Sydney.

McGettigan believes infrastructure upgrades and the installation of more chiller boxes around the region would help increase processing in the abattoir.

New CRC centre to focus on food, agriculture

The federal government will establish a cooperative research centre (CRC) in Townsville which will initially focus on the agriculture and food sectors, as well as tropical health.

The centre will deal with short-term collaborative projects that the government hopes will enhance the competitiveness of northern Australia. It will be comprised of industry representatives from Queensland, Western Australia and the Northern Territory.

Minister for industry Arthur Sinodinos said that the new CRC will have a few key focuses.

“This CRC will bring together industry, research organisations and all northern jurisdictions with international partners to tackle barriers to private investment in the north, with an initial focus on agriculture, food and tropical health,” Sinodinos said.

Leichhardt member of parliament Warren Entsch said the CRC will help develop aquaculture opportunities in the North.

“It’s also about how we overcome impediments to development, and looking strongly at indigenous-led development in Northern Australia – particularly in areas such as aquaculture, where there are significant opportunities,” he said.

Applications for short-term collaborative grants are now open.

Image: Wikipedia, Glenn Prinsen

Katter’s Australian Party wants fair milk price logo

Katter’s Australian Party MP Shane Knuth has tabled a private members bill into the Queensland Parliament to legislate for the introduction of fair milk price ‘logos’.

The aim is for voluntary region-specific logos to be placed on milk containers, giving consumers confidence the dairy farmer who produced that milk received a fair price.

As production costs vary across Queensland, the Bill identifies three dairy regions – north Queensland, central Queensland and south-east Queensland.

“This will make it very simple for the consumer – they can walk into the shop and immediately see which fresh milk produced in which region is fairly priced by looking for the logo,” Knuth (pictured) said in a statement.

The Bill provides for the setting of a minimum price to be paid to dairy farmers for the production of milk carrying a logo, which is a voluntary market mechanism processors can choose to incorporate into existing milk labels.

The legislation establishes the eligibility criteria and legal protection for logos and introduces offences for particular conduct to protect the logo integrity.

However, producers and processors would not be penalised if they chose to not adopt the logo.

Knuth stressed that the Bill did not enable regulation of the Queensland dairy industry.

As the ABC reports, both the Government and the Opposition indicated they have not yet decided if they will support the bill.

Both the Agriculture Minister Leanne Donaldson and the Opposition agriculture spokesman Dale Last will assess the merits of the bill after a parliamentary committee first assesses it.

Image: Facebook

 

Sew-Eurodrive to open new facility in Mackay

Global drive technology specialist SEW-EURODRIVE says construction has begun on a state-of-the-art facility in Mackay to house its new Heavy Industrial Solutions Service Centre.

The 2000sqm Service Centre, scheduled to open in March 2017, will allow the company to better support gear drive customers in Mackay and surrounding areas.

The Mayor of Mackay Regional Council, Cr. Greg Williamson recently went on site to officially open construction of the Service Centre and expressed his delight in this new development.

“The confidence shown by SEW-EURODRIVE in establishing a new centre in Mackay is indeed welcome. The fact that a multinational company, as highly regarded as SEW-EURODRIVE, is willing to back itself in this region, in these tough times, speaks volumes for the ongoing future of the industry sector in the Bowen Basin region,” said Cr Williamson.

“The Council and in fact the industrial sector in our community, welcomes SEW-EURODRIVE and we look forward to their contribution as a partner in this region’s growth.”

According to Daniel Dallari, SEW-EURODRIVE’s Sales & Operations Manager for the region, customers will be able to take advantage of the technical expertise of a global player with a strong local presence to ensure reliability of their operation and processes.

“SEW-EURODRIVE has established a service alliance with Werner Engineering to support gearbox service and repairs with local, state-of-the-art machining and fabrication capabilities,” Dallari said.

Many gear drives within the region are now reaching a stage where they require some serious servicing/rebuild or possible replacement.

“SEW-EURODRIVE’s state-of-the-art Heavy Industrial Solution Service Centre combined with our product specialists and the support of Werner Engineering’s machine shop will provide assistance from repair of SEW products, all the way to replacing aging non-SEW units with energy efficient, modern and space saving ‘drop-in’ engineered replacements,” said Mr Dallari.

Progress press releases will be posted on a regular basis to keep the market informed.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

QLD introduces compulsory kilojoule labelling for food outlets

The Queensland yesterday passed legislation forcing all food outlets, cafes and supermarkets to display the kilojoule content of their food and drinks at point-of-sale.

Minister for Health and Ambulance Services Cameron Dick said the new laws ensured display of kilojoule information was implemented consistently statewide, spelling a win for the health of all Queenslanders.

“The reality is many of us rely on ready-to-eat meals and snacks from fast food outlets, cafes and grocery stores, to the point where one-third of all Queensland adults are eating takeaway food at least once a week,” he said.

“It is essential for your health to understand exactly what you are eating, but most of us don’t realise how much saturated fat, sugar and salt are in these types of foods.

“These new laws will provide Queenslanders with the nutrition information they need to make informed, healthier food choices.”

The new laws apply to fast-food chains, bakery chains, café chains and supermarkets with at least 20 outlets in Queensland or 50 outlets nationwide.

According to the Government, about 2.5 million adults and children in Queensland are overweight or obese, with obesity in the past estimated as costing the state’s economy more than $11 billion a year.

Mr Dick said food businesses would have 12 months to comply with the scheme.

Beef and milk factory planned for Darling Downs

A Toowoomba construction company is seeking council approval to build a $80 million beef and milk processing facility at Queensland's Darling Downs.

The ABC reports that FK Gardiner and Sons (FKG) submitted a development application to local council to build the facility near Charlton on the outskirts of Toowoomba.

Group manager of property development with FKG, Dallas Hunter told the ABC that, if approved, the facility would handle 10,000 head of cattle a week and employ 300 workers. It could be up and running by 2017.

FKG is best known as a civil construction company. However, it also has a history of involvement in agriculture. As the Toowoomba Chronicle reports, the company now runs 11,000 hectares of agricultural property near Cecil Plains and, as such, is the Darling Downs' biggest farming company.

Hunter told the Chronicle the new facility would help diversify the company’s operations.

"With the slowdown in the gas industry, we're hoping agriculture might fill the gap,” he said.

"We're spreading the company as wide as we can as part of our risk management and diversification."

He said there was demand for Australian food from overseas and the produce could be exported from the Wellcamp Airport.

Toowoomba Mayor Paul Antonio told the ABC that the airport, along with other other new infrastructure such as the range crossing and the possibility of inland rail mean Toowoomba has the potential to become a food processing hub of the future.

 

Silliker acquires MicroLabs

Silliker Australia, the Australian subsidiary of Mérieux Nutrisciences Corporation, has acquired DMG MicroLabs, an independent food testing laboratory in Brisbane.

Founded in 2003, by Mark Dawson and Bill Greene, DMG MicroLabs is a NATA (National Association of Testing Authorities, Australia) accredited microbiological service provider, offering testing in food, water and in-door air quality, but also chemical testing, consulting and training services.

In order to cope with the fast growth and the extension of scope of services delivered in its Brisbane laboratory, DMG MicroLabs activities have concomitantly been transferred to a new laboratory located in Eagle Farm, Brisbane.

This new laboratory allows Silliker Australia to take advantage of a fast growing region for microbiology and chemistry testing, but also to start offering fresh milk testing services, complementary to the milk testing laboratory located in its Blackburn (Victoria) laboratory.

“Already in Victoria, New South Wales and Western Australia, it was key for Silliker Australia to have a laboratory in Queensland. This complementary location allows us to better cover the Australian market and thus to better serve our customers by being closer to them” said Philippe Sans, President and CEO of Mérieux NutriSciences.

“We have decided to rapidly move the existing DMG MicroLabs laboratory to a brand new facility as of December 2014 which will allow us to expand our range of service and additionally deliver fresh milk testing services thanks to a brand new specialised laboratory that will commence operations in February 2015” added Daryl Bird, Managing Director of Silliker Australia."

 

2014 Premier of Queensland’s Export Award winners announced

CO YO has taken out the Richard Joel Award for Emerging Exporter of the Year at the Premier of Queensland’s Export Awards.

The Sunshine Coast-based company was also named a Finalist in the Small Business category.

Frosty Boy Australia was a finalist for the Manufacturing Award and a finalist for Regional Exporter Award.

Cardinal Seafoods was named a finalist for the Online Sales Award and Capilano Honey Limited a finalist for the Agribusiness Award.

Launched in 2010, CO YO’s domestic success has attracted international investors and it is now produced and distributed under license in the United Kingdom and United States, and is exported to New Zealand.

CO YO founders and directors Henry and Sandra Gosling said the rapid global expansion of their brand had taken them somewhat by surprise.

“To see the business we started in our kitchen grow to be recognised as one of the State’s leading exporters is quite overwhelming, but extremely satisfying” Sandra Gosling said.

“We knew there was a market for delicious and healthy non-dairy alternatives to yoghurt and ice-cream, but the demand is even greater than we expected.

“We now have passionate CO YO consumers all around the world who are very vocal in their support of our products, particularly on social media, and that has really seen the international market come to us.”

Judging panel chairwoman Wendy McMillan said CO YO was a worthy winner.

“Their product is niche and reflects features that are valued in a range of applications and global markets,” she said.

“Their marketing strategy is comprehensive and well integrated, with flexible in-market strategies for distribution and or manufacturing.”

Sunshine Coast Mayor Mark Jamieson congratulated Henry and Sandra Gosling on their hard work and innovative ideas.

"CO YO is the epitome of bold thinking and real action, the foundations of success in any business," Mayor Jamieson said.

"These awards recognise the best of the best in the export industry and CO YO has shown it is up there with them and helping put Sunshine Coast on the world map,” he said.

CO YO's latest win comes on the back of the company taking out the Ingredient Innovation category at the Food Magazine Awards for the third year running in August.

 

UQ food training centre opens

An industry-backed centre dedicated to creating healthier food choices for Australian and Asian consumers opened at the University of Queensland (UQ).

Funded by the Australian Research Council, the ‘Industrial Transformation Training Centre’ aims to ensure Australia is well positioned to create and market healthier foods and to respond to a surging demand from Asia’s expanding markets – both within a resource-constrained world.

Led by The University of Queensland, the centre will combine the expertise of principal partner the Australian Food and Grocery Council, as well as collaborating partners the International Rice Research Institute, Rural Industries Research and Development Corporation, Wuhan University and Huazhong University of Science.

The centre has been tasked with preparing an initial cohort of 13 young scientists for expertise in areas such as health and nutrition, consumer and sensory science, commercialisation and business leadership.

The opening was attended by UQ Provost and Senior Vice-President Professor Max Lu and ARC Chief Executive Officer Professor Aidan Byrne.

The training centre has been awarded $2.7 million over three years from the Australian Research Council.

Centre Director, Professor Melissa Fitzgerald is an expert in rice quality and breeding and has extensive connections with rice improvement programs in Asia.

 

Recycled beehives create a buzz

Beerburrum beekeepers have won the Concept category at Innovation Centre Sunshine Coast’s annual Business Pitch competition with their “Hive Haven” made from recycled plastic.

Beekeepers Ann and Jeff Ross won the category after impressing judges with their ‘show me the honey pitch’, which outlined their plans to produce innovative beehives designed to deter disease and pests like the deadly small hive beetle.

The couple’s prize includes $1,000 for the development of the business, bookkeeping services, financial and legal consultations, website development, smartphone app development, a promotional film, an advertising package and Innovation Centre membership.

“This will be a huge cost saving and has come at just the right time for our business,” Ann said.

The Ross’ have been testing their hives for eight months and are about to enlist Queensland Professional Beekeepers Association members to do further field testing before they begin production.

Ann is studying a Bachelor of Business at the University of the Sunshine Coast and credits her studies with helping prepare for the competition and planning their new business venture, Hive Haven.

“Studying entrepreneurship really helped me write a good business plan,” she said. “I drew on what I’ve learned in accounting to complete the financial section and the mentors at the Innovation Centre supported the creative drive of the concept. It also gave me the confidence to convey it all verbally in the pitch to the judges.”

Innovation Centre Sunshine Coast CEO and competition judge Mark Paddenburg was impressed by the couple’s planning and ideas.

“Hive Haven’s concept addressed a number of serious problems facing a niche but profitable industry, and was backed by a solid business plan and financial projections,” he said.

 

Food trail map designed to showcase the Sunshine Coast’s food industry

Sunshine Coast Destination Limited (SCDL) is developing a new food trail app which is designed to showcase the region’s diverse food offering thanks to a grant from the Queensland State Government.

The Sunshine Coast food trail app and mobile site develops customised drive itineraries throughout the region to suit individual tastes, and will provide visitors with the opportunity to visit small scale producers such as Suncoast Gold Macadamias, together with markets, restaurants and local festivals.

The food trail app will help visitors engage and interact with the region’s extensive and diverse product and mix with the many foodie characters and personalities operating on the Sunshine Coast.

SCDL say that the app will provide a strong platform to leverage Tourism Australia’s new “Restaurant Australia” initiative in international markets and, will be used by Business Events Sunshine Coast (BESC) as a tool to encourage more conferences to the region. The BESC team indicates that food and produce are increasingly becoming motivators in the conference market decision making process.

Additionally, the app will serve as a search opportunity for suppliers of unique produce and food products, thereby creating new distribution channels for producers.

CEO of Sunshine Coast Destination Ltd (SCDL), Simon Ambrose, said that the project would give recognition to the outstanding progress the region had made in recent years to develop its food culture.

“The region aims to establish itself as one of the country’s leading food tourism regions, with events such as the Noosa International Food and Wine Festival and the Real Food Festival already attracting extensive interest both nationally and internationally,” said Ambrose. “The food trail app will help bring together all the elements that make up the region’s food and wine culture, and make it easier for visitors to connect and engage with our best food tourism experiences.

“The food app project will allow the region’s three councils – Sunshine Coast, Noosa and Gympie – to provide a ‘one voice’ approach to developing the Food Trail project.”

 

Fair Work inspectors visit Bundaberg

Six Fair Work Ombudsman inspectors will fly into Bundaberg today and make unannounced visits to local fruit and vegetable farms in response to complaints and concerns about non-compliance with federal workplace laws.

Farmers and labour-hire contractors will be asked to open their books, allowing inspectors to view records, with a particular emphasis on minimum pay rates, loadings and penalties. Record keeping and payslip obligations will also be monitored.

In addition to field visits, inspectors will run an information booth tomorrow (24 June) at the Federal Backpackers Hostel in Bundaberg.

Fair Work Ombudsman Natalie James said key stakeholders have been enlisted to assist the Agency promote the need for compliance and a “level playing field” for all employers.

These include the Bundaberg Fruit and Vegetable Growers Association, Growcom and Bundaberg and District Chamber of Commerce.

James says Bundaberg relies heavily on labour from working holiday makers, many of whom undertake seasonal harvest work to help qualify for a second-year visa.

“We have recently received information that suggests some of these workers may be being underpaid, so we intend to investigate and ensure that employers understand and are complying with their workplace obligations,” she said.

The first preference of Fair Work inspectors will be to work co-operatively with employers to assist them to correct any issues by agreement and put processes in place to ensure future compliance.

However, they will consider enforcement measures in cases of serious non-compliance, such as issuing Infringement Notices (on-the-spot fines) of up to $2550.

In the event of a matter being so serious it warrants legal action, penalties of up to $51,000 per breach are applicable to companies and $10,200 to individuals.

James said checking that employers are complying with their obligation to have written agreements in place for workers paid piece-work rates will also be a key focus of the program.

“This is a really important issue. In the absence of a piece-work agreement workers are required to be paid hourly rates of pay according to the Horticulture Award 2010,” she said.

Over the next few years the Fair Work Ombudsman will visit dozens of fruit and vegetable farms throughout Australia as part of its focus on the entitlements of seasonal harvest workers.

“We want to ensure employers understand and meet their workplace obligations and we are also seeking information about industry factors that influence compliance levels,” she said.

James says complaints to the Fair Work Ombudsman from fruit and vegetable pickers in the region have identified a number of common issues, including:

  • Employees being unaware of who their legal employer is because they do not receive pay slips and are paid cash by a third party who may not be their employer,
  • Employers underpaying the minimum hourly rate under the Horticulture Award 2010,
  • Employers failing to keep time and wages records, particularly for casual employees,
  • Employers failing to give new employees a copy of the Fair Work Information statement, and
  • Employers making unlawful deductions to employees’ wages.

A decision to pro-actively monitor workplace compliance in Bundaberg follows auditing in Caboolture, South-East Queensland, last year which found that more than 150 seasonal workers had been short-changed about $133,000.

The Fair Work Ombudsman recently established an Overseas Workers’ Team (OWT) in recognition that overseas workers can be vulnerable to exploitation, or require specialist assistance.

Complaints to the Fair Work Ombudsman from overseas workers come most frequently from South Korean, Chinese, Vietnamese and Japanese workers.

For more information about workplace laws, click here.

 

Fair Work inspectors to visit North QLD farms

A team of four Fair Work Ombudsman inspectors will visit capsicum, tomato and banana farms around Bowen and Tully next week as part of an ongoing focus on seasonal workers.

The inspectors will make unannounced visits to properties selected at random to speak with growers and labour hire contractors about their obligations under federal workplace laws.

One property has been earmarked for investigation following information suggesting that seasonal workers may be receiving less than their minimum entitlements.

Fair Work Ombudsman Natalie James said it is important that employers at Bowen and Tully understand their workplace obligations, and improving awareness is the main focus of the visits.

However, James said any non-compliance issues that come to light will be addressed.

The Fair Work Ombudsman continues to receive underpayment complaints from seasonal harvest workers and many are substantiated.

Last month, Fair Work inspectors wrote to about 60 employers around Bowen and Tully to advise them of this week’s field visits.

Over the next few years the Fair Work Ombudsman will visit dozens of fruit and vegetable farms throughout Australia as part of its focus on the entitlements of seasonal harvest workers.

“We want to ensure employers understand and meet their workplace obligations and we’re also seeking information about industry factors that influence compliance levels,” James said.

“This knowledge will help us to better target our education and campaign activities, particularly in relation to the overseas workers employed in this sector.”

 

Jobs cut as Bundaberg Rum shifts bottling to Sydney

Ten jobs will be lost as a result of Bundaberg Rum’s decision to move its bottling operation from the Queensland town to Sydney.

Parent company, Diageo, announced the bottling operation will move to the western Sydney suburb of Huntingwood as soon as next month, the Illawarra Mercury reports.

A Diageo spokesperson said that both the Bundaberg and Huntingwood facilities are underutilised due to lower alcohol consumption and the punitive excise tax on spirits and RTDs, “which has seen volumes decline significantly in recent years.”

Premier Campbell Newman said the decision to move states is disappointing, especially considering the devastating floods Bundaberg experienced in 2013.

“Ten jobs may not sound like much but it's significant in a smaller community like Bundaberg,” he said.
The Diageo spokeswoman said other products including the Master Distillers Collection will continue to be bottled in Bundaberg.

“We remain absolutely committed to Bundaberg and the distillery and will continue to invest and focus on our core business of distilling, maturing and blending great quality rum in Bundaberg as we have done for the last 125 years.”