When good sense takes control of the wheel
Today marks a big win for on farm safety and biosecurity, says Federated Farmers dairy chair Chris Lewis.
In the Government’s announcement of its Employment Relations Bill today, a change Federated Farmers advocated for appears to be included.
The Bill allows union representatives the right to access worksites where union members are covered by or bargaining for a collective agreement, but requires consent from employers in all other circumstances.
Before Feds got involved in the process the proposed Bill removed the need for union representatives to notify the employer and seek their permission, Chris says.
"I think we can pat ourselves on the back a bit here. What appears to be coming through looks okay.
"We were against what was proposed. Farms are big businesses and it’s dangerous to have people crawling over farms where the farmer manager and employees don’t know they’re there. Let alone the biosecurity risk these unexpected visitors could pose - we do exist during the fight against Mycoplasma bovis. Does the Government want to risk that battle?"
Also, general farm work is time sensitive and it’s not necessarily appropriate or possible for farmers to be able to allow work to stop so employees can talk to union workers at any time - think milking cows or shearing sheep.
Chris says there is also the risk of someone you don’t know turning up and claiming they’re a union official when they might not be.
"Rural crime prevention is seriously under resourced and while it’s like that why should farmers give open access to their businesses to people they may be unfamiliar with in what often is also their family homes?
"While farms are workplaces they are also homes and it’s common courtesy to give a farmer a heads up before coming on the farm.
"Although, we do agree that farmers (or any business owners) should not be able to unreasonably restrict access."
Chris acknowledges the Government’s work on this Bill and thanks them for working with the advocacy organisation to address its concerns.
"This is a big win for Fed’s advocacy."