Wine industry employers in Australia have been given seven months’ breathing space in relation to increased award wages, thanks to successful advocacy by the South Australian Wine Industry Association (SAWIA).
Based on a submission made by SAWIA, the Fair Work Commission (FWC) made the decision not to commence the national wage increase for the wine industry on 1 July 2020, delaying the increase until 1 February 2021.
SAWIA says wine businesses are now in survival and recovery mode and any wage increase in July would put further pressure on wine businesses who are doing their very best to retain their staff and to continue operations, given the challenging 2020 conditions.
The Fair Work Commission’s Annual Wage Review decision handed down on Friday, increased award wages by 1.75 percent. The decision affects all employees who are paid wages under Modern Awards. In the wine industry, the predominant award is the Wine Industry Award 2010, covering vineyard, cellar, cellar door sales, bottling, warehousing and laboratory employees.
“Every year we provide a submission to FWC’s Annual Wage Review advocating on behalf of the wine industry,” says SAWIA chief executive Brian Smedley.
“Our approach is guided by our Employee Relations Committee, comprising of wine industry HR Executives and Senior Managers, some with national responsibilities, drawn from our membership.
“Our submission to FWC this year focused on industry recovery and job retention, given the unprecedent circumstances in 2020 which has seen all cellar doors in South Australia close temporarily due to Covid-19 restrictions which followed catastrophic bushfires in wine regions in summer.”
SAWIA provided detailed statistics collected from its membership to demonstrate the impact of Covid-19 on exports, cashflow, overall sales and cellar door visits. SAWIA also highlighted the part the wine industry plays in the tourism industry and that travel restrictions and impact of Covid-19 in key markets has had a major impact on the industry in relation to cellar doors visits and sales.
“SAWIA supports employees getting a fair and reasonable wage increase and over the last few years in previous Annual Wage Reviews has supported a wage increase in line with CPI,” Mr Smedley says.
“It was pleasing to see that the Fair Work Commission found that it was ‘abundantly clear’ that the restrictions, including closures, to prevent the transmission of Covid-19 ‘have caused significant hardship’ for tourism and hospitality industries, including the wine industry.”
The decision recognised that there were exceptional circumstances to justify the commencement of the wage increase for employees covered by the Wine Industry Award 2010 to be delayed until 1 February 2021.
It’s important to note that only 22 percent of all industries have had the wage increase deferred to 1 February 2021. The remainder either had the increase commencing on 1 July (as usual) or had a delay until 1 November 2021.
“We are mindful of how the delay of wage increase may affect the household budgets of individual wine industry employees,” Mr Smedley says.
“However, the focus this year must be on job retention and we are hopeful that our advocacy has created better overall conditions for the wine industry nationally to be able to cope with the Covid-19 pandemic, avoiding further job losses and gradually return to normal operating conditions.
“The advocacy highlights the practical outcomes SAWIA is achieving for our members. And we are pleased to take the national lead in relation to employment and industrial relations policy.”
SAWIA has recognition under Federal industrial relations law as an ‘employer association’ and is the only wine industry association in Australia with this recognition.
Photo: South Australian Wine Industry Association.