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New legislation will be a rural minefield

The ACT party today raised serious concerns at the rural sector implications of the Government’s new Employment Relations Bill.

“The new Bill will cause endless problems for the rural sector. It has the potential to undermine the rights of farmers and sharemikers to negotiate contracts that meet their own unique needs,” said ACT MP and dairy farmer Penny Webster.

“Currently sharemilkers have the status of independent contractors. The new legislation defines a situation as an employment relationship by considering the extent to which a person (sharemilker) is under the control and direction of another person (farmer) and is integrated into the other person’s business or affairs. This means the sharemilker will be considered an employee.

“Short term contracts are also extremely vital to the rural sector, yet they too will become extremely hazardous under the new legislation.

“Currently most sharemilking agreements are roll over, meaning a farmer contracts work out to sharemilkers, on an individual fixed-term contract with a specific expiry date. Currently the Employment court recognises that once a contract has expired the employment ceases and the employee is unable to make a personal grievance claim relating to the end of the contract.

“Under the new legislation when a fixed-term contract comes to an end the employee will be deemed to be unjustifiably dismissed unless the employer can prove, that at the time of the contracts conclusion, there were genuine operational reasons for not continuing the employment.

“Farm work and the resulting experience it offers young rural workers will become a thing of the past.

“The rural community must voice it’s opposition to these law changes now before it becomes too expensive to even hire a hay bailer for a day’s work,” said Penny Webster.


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