Skip to content

Is Piece Work Really Dead?

Piece rate payment has long been a popular form of remuneration in horticulture. A piece worker’s pay is based on the quantity they pick, prune or pack. Piece workers have the potential to earn much more than they would on an hourly wage. It’s worth every cent to the growers and packers whose livelihood depends on getting produce picked and packed as quickly as possible, over what is often a short harvest period.

How the Horticulture Minimum Wage Has Changed Things

Such was the reaction to the introduction of a horticulture minimum wage guarantee for pieceworkers in Australia in 2022, many believe it is no longer legal to pay piece rates in Australia. The calculations are complicated and the record-keeping requirements considerable, but so long as it is in compliance with the Horticulture Award, it is most definitely still legal.

A minimum wage guarantee for piece work has been required across the ditch in New Zealand for some time, and piece rate payment remains widely used in horticulture. Perhaps Kiwis are more used to it, after all New Zealand was the first country to implement a national minimum wage. ABC Software is headquartered in New Zealand, and we already had tools to accommodate the minimum wage guarantee locally. That’s not to say there weren’t a few long days ensuring we put together a watertight solution to ensure our Aussie friends could meet their obligations!

Complying with the Horticulture Award

So, piece rates are legal, but are they dead? Many growers and packers threw them out believing the cost of minimum wage top up payments and compliance considerations would make them unviable. Good horticulture-specific software such as ABCgrower is essential to make it work. It does the hard yards for you and delivers accurate pay information and audit-ready reproducible reports. Even those that made the rules (I’m looking at you FWO!) recommend using software and not trying to go it alone. 

The Benefits of ABCgrower

One of our growers stuck with piece rates after the introduction of the horticulture minimum wage guarantee, in large part because of having ABCgrower with its tools to manage piece rates already on hand. Such is the strength of belief in the death of these rates in the industry they decided to shift to hourly wages for the second harvest since the legislation changes. Both payment mechanisms fall under the Horticulture Award, and both have their pros and cons. 

With hourly wages comes overtime liability (ABCgrower takes care of these calculations too!). What this grower was left with was a wage bill considerably higher for the harvest paid on hourly rates, than the harvest paid on piece rates. This was due primarily to the overtime bill greatly outweighing the top up bill, as well as the efficiency advantages this form of payment can bring. They are now firmly in favour of the advantages of piece rate! 

Increase Your Efficiency Today

With labour contributing in the region of 70 percent of harvest cost, piece work definitely shouldn’t be thrown out because of the Horticulture Award changes. Piece rates are a tool in an industry where efficiency has become king. Piece work isn’t dead. It’s very much alive and well. 

Find out how ABCgrower can help your business effortlessly comply with the Horticulture Award pay rates in 2024. For more information on any of our software, contact us today and see the difference these programs can make for your business.

“Using ABCgrower for us has benefitted the business in the sense that we can see where our costs are.”
Johnny Milmine, General Manager
Berry Farms NZ

Get in Touch