Message from Glenn Fenton & updates to the Nursery Award

Dear Members & Stakeholders

Thank you to Glenn for his video message to Industry HERE.

We have brought this update forward due to the Easter long weekend.

We must ensure we maintain a high level of diligence to ensure production and retail nurseries and allied businesses remain able to operate and trade. Please be vigilant with enforcing the requirements across Easter. Just as we all have a responsibility to doing our bit for Australia, we also all have a responsibility to do our bit for the Industry.

Since Tuesday,I have attended a number of teleconferences with the Federal Department of Agriculture, the National Farmers Federation Horticultural Council and with a number of National and State industry representative bodies to ensure OUR industryis aware of the latest developments with respect to coronavirus, in relation greenlife production and retailing from a national perspective. The key items discussed include ‘essential services’, workforce requirements, Nursery Award changes, fresh produce supply and waste concerns and general promotional activities for the horticulture sector.

I reiterate again, our main focus continues to be ensuring all greenlife industry businesses can continue to operate and trade. Details from the activities over the last couple of days are included under the regular headings.

Workplace Health and Safety

I provided a response on behalf of Austalia to aglobal survey conducted by the International Association of Horticultural Producers (AIPH) on what is working tokeep the nursery retailers and supply chain businesses open internationally.

Generally, it has found that production and retail nurseries are still able to trade with the common themes from the survey being:

  • protect yourself, staff and customers through implementing health and hygiene guidelines
  • ensure there is social/physical distancing and limit the number of customers in stores.
  • implementing retailing tips including, usingsafety approaches and devices (screens, signs, traffic flow, separate entrance and exit with hand cleaning stations), take appointments, click and collect (take away) and home delivery.
Please continue to follow and comply with the Government guidelines and instructions on health, hygiene, social/physical distancing and gatherings, especially over Easter.It is vital this can be demonstrated to anyone and everyone. It is also vitally important in supporting the case we are making to Government around the importance of production and retail nurseries and allied supplier businesses to keeping businesses operating.

Working Together

Glenn Fenton and I had a teleconference today with John van der Horst and Leigh Siebler (Garden Centres Australia), Graham Ross (Australian Garden Council) and Peter Thorburn and Evan Muller (Independent Garden Centres) to discuss the areas of common advocacy across the “gardening” nursery supply chain from production nurseries to garden centres to the gardening community. The aim of the meeting was to ensure we have a consistent, coordinated and harmonised approach to messages we deliver on the industry as we manage operations during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The two main messages from this meeting are that 'Garden Centers are open for business' and that we want to 'ensure your customers are successful gardeners.' You are encouraged to let your customers know that you are open and ensure you tell them the changes in the way you are operating. I want to point you our tips document in our online resources which might help with some ideas.

Advocacy for Member Businesses and Greenlife Supply Chain

Essential Services List

I have contributed to the development of an ‘essential services’ list for Agriculture at the request of the Minister for Agriculture through the National Farmers Federation where I have specifically named growers, retailers and allied suppliers for inclusion on the list. The list is being presented for review and discussion by the Federal, State and Territory Agriculture Ministers (AgMin) meeting today.

We are making these representations nationally because theFederal, State and Territory Agriculture Ministers are working to understand and manage the issues faced by the sector as consistently as possible. It is important to note, that the Federal Government does not have jurisdiction over the declaration of ‘essential services’. The State Governments will influence the list based on the priorities of the State.

My representation to Tony Maher through the NFF Hort Council on the ‘essential services’ list and the nursery industry has been included under the category – “Seed, Seedlings, Nursery Stock and includes: Production, supply, distribution and retail sale of seeds, seedlings and nursery stock, including tissue culture laboratories, propagation facilities and greenhouses.”

This list is intended to be indicative rather than exhaustive and draws on industry and state-specific lists prepared by NFF member organisations. It is a condensed and principle-based approach that provides some consistency. I will keep you advised of developments and provide the list when available for distribution.

Labour

Another area of concern for production horticulture is access to labour due to the seasonal and cyclical nature of workforce requirements for picking, processing and packing. At this stage, I am not aware of nursery industry businesses requiring access to larger numbers of seasonal workers. Visas for seasonal workers including the Pacific Island work scheme and working holiday makers (backpackers) were extended last week and now the challenge is to manage self-isolation of workers as they move from regions to region and state to state. Please contact me directly if you have any specific requirements for labour and have concerns.

Greenlife preservation

Our industry needs to continue to demonstrate to Government our preparedness and ability to preserve and maintain all greenlife while reducing the risk of COVID-19 within our businesses. This supports our case for enabling trade to continue.

GIA continues with risk management planning for future potential scenario with the support of our colleagues in New Zealand. We are playing a role in this process and so should you. We are asking you to review and update your own business planning. You can download a template HERE. Please be aware this document is regularly updated as more information becomes available. It is provided in Word so you can amend it easily.

Nursery Award

On Tuesday, the Full Bench of the Fairwork Commission varied the Nursery Award to insert a new Schedule – ‘Schedule X. A summary of these changes are:
  • Schedule X operates from 8 April 2020 to 30 June 2020
Pandemic Leave
  • The Schedule entitles any employee to take two (2) weeks unpaid leave if the employee is required to:
    • by government or medical authorities
    • on advice from a medical practitioner
    • for self-isolation and as a consequence, cannot work
    • is prevented from working by government ormedical authorities because of COVID-19.
  • The employee must give notice and provide a reason for the leave as soon as practical and they may be asked to provide evidence of the reason for the leave.
  • The leave must commence before 30 June 2020 but can conclude after.
Leave at half pay
  • An employer and employee may agree to take twice as much annual leave at half pay.
  • The agreement must be recorded in writing and kept on the employee record.
  • The leave must commence before 30 June 2020 but can conclude after.
The full summary is provided HERE.

GIA Communications

I'd like to say thank you to the many businesses who have taken the time to provide feedback on the updates. Your feedback helps us to ensure we are providing the information you need at this time. As you are all aware, there has been a great deal of activity over the last couple of days to ensure we stay up to date and on top of all information relevant to keep your businesses operating and able to trade. The Coronavirus (COVID-19) situation seems to be “stabilising” to a certain extent as we modify our practices to a new mode of operation.

If you would like more information on any of the detail above, please contact me (0400 739 802) alternatively, please email peter.vaughan@greenlifeindustry.com.au

Regards
Peter Vaughan
CEO Greenlife Industry Australia.

More information?

As the COVID-19 situation is extremely dynamic and rapidly evolving, Members and key stakeholders are encouraged to share their concerns and any information updates via the industry’s national information hotline on 1300 905 643. Additional information and resources are also available at www.greenlifeindustry.com.au. Where immediate updates are required, an Alert will be issued.