GROWERS are scratching their heads over changes to the piece rate award which came into effect in April.
The Fair Work Commission last year ruled workers picking fruit must earn a minimum wage, $25.41, under the horticulture award.
Employers will be required to keep a record of hours worked.
Jonathon Moss from Mossmont Nurseries, Warburn, said the main problem was a lack of understanding of what the changes meant.
"I've read through all this and I still don't know because it's all in this legal mumbo jumbo and I'm utterly confused," he said.
Mr Moss sent in a submission and gave evidence at the Fair Work Commission tribunal last year stating the benefits of the current piece rate agreement.
"I trialled my workforce doing the exact same task with piece rate and then without piece rate and they were 50 per cent less productive (without the piece rate)," he said.
Mr Moss said if you were to ask the workers, piece rate was what they prefer.
"When they work piece rate, they can earn far, far more than they can on [an hourly rate]," he said.
"We're going to knock it on the head and potentially do an agreement with the workers that if you're more productive then you'll get a bonus on top," he said.
"It's too complicated with all this other stuff."
Being paid hourly means staff will have to work less than 304 hours in eight weeks or get paid penalty hours.
"We can't afford to pay penalty rates, otherwise we can't make a profit," he said.
Mr Moss said in the future he will have to restrict workers' hours to be under the threshold, but this means some workers might abscond if they're unhappy with their hours.
"I have to rely on the fact that I hope it doesn't, but it's going to happen," he said.
For Griffith citrus grower Joe D'Aquino the new system will be a "logistical nightmare."
"It's hard because I'm only a one man show here - if I've got to do that new piece rate, I've got to hire someone else to come and do that because someone's got to keep and eye on them when they clock on and clock off and when they sleep," he said.
"We're not a normal 9 to 5 office job."
Mr D'Aquino said pickers could come and go several times during a day and be working until 11pm so the old system was easier with only having to know who picked what.
"The piece rate was easier, they came when they want, they left when they want and the job got done, so I don't know why they changed it," he said.
Understanding the new system is another problem for Mr D'Aquino.
"I don't know all the ins and outs," he said.
"I've listened to a few things online, but trying to get your head around all the legalities is a nightmare."
Griffith District Citrus Growers Association (GDCGA) chair, Vito Mancini, said understanding the new rules was the biggest problem for growers across the board.
"It's not so much the pay - all growers make sure workers are getting paid fairly," he said.
"It's the compliance and paperwork side of the agreements that's causing concerns, you need to clock on and clock off workers, know when their breaks are, count the pieces and get them to sign off.
People don't have the finances to get them out of it and they continue in a downward spiral until they may say lose the family farm.- Vito Mancini, chair, Griffith District Citrus Growers Association
"There's a lot of things growers have to get their heads around and if they do all that they worry [about whether] they are compliant, or is there more they need to do?"
Mr Mancini said harvest had been down this season with hail damage downgrading crops.
"We'll see the season through and hope for a better one next year," he said.
"Unfortunately mother nature wasn't so kind this year, but we've just got to keep going."
For some growers, Mr Mancini said the pressures were too high and the GDCGA, along with the wine grape growers industry, were formulating a plan to present to the government to help those who want to exit to transition to a different type of horticulture.
"At the moment, the cost of transitioning into different horticulture is very costly," he said.
"There's always people at the end of the season who say they're losing money and want to get out.
"People don't have the finances to get them out of it and they continue in a downward spiral until they may say lose the family farm."
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