Sorting the sh*t from the strawberries

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The arrangement between growers and fruit pickers is a mutually beneficial one which, as Rodney Lever argues, would be grossly unfair to try to regulate or destroy. 

UNTIL QUITE recently I lived for several years in a small rural community among the Glass House Mountains where there were several acres of annual strawberrry crops.

In the early morning, I often drove past these fields and at harvest time in the late spring there was often a small group of people, mostly young girls and boys and a few older people waiting for the owners to authorise the picking.

The group were obviously often young travellers and a few older local battlers wanting to pick up some extra cash.

Gardeners will know that there is no way to pick strawberries by machinery. Each fat, plump red berry has to be picked carefully by hand and put in a tray.

So the strawberry picking would go on day after day, until all the fields were cleared and the daily pick sent off fresh to the markets.

It is in this area of income that a mutually agreed arrangement established by Bill Shorten came in to being between the strawberry growers and their short-term employees. The system has continued for years and nobody has protested.

At the heart of the nonsensical so-called Royal Commission started by Tony Abbott is the ignorance of the pursuers of the Labor leader in an effort to show Australians that Shorten is a villain extorting money for a union, while Tony Abbott travelled around the country trying to establish in the minds of the Australian people that he alone was an honest and truthful man of decent character suitable to lead the country.

The arrangement between the growers and the pickers is a rational one and it would be grossly unfair to try to regulate or destroy it. The agreement is a mutual one satisfactory to both sides.

It is not some kind of union rort. Yes, the workers get paid and the union supervises their working conditions for fairness and honest. There have been occasions in the past where fruit pickers have been badly exploited by growers in many forms of farming.

The unions provide a reasonable and sensible maintenance of the system by contributing to the union. It ensures the support of the fairness of the system and it works in a matter of mutual interest. No one could reasonably criticise an arrangement that serves all sides. Both the pickers and the growers benefit financially, otherwise the strawberries would rot in the fields and the pickers would miss out on earning the money.

You can follow Rodney Lever on Twitter @rodneyelever.

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