Employer masterclass: lessons from Biteriot?

Fiona Hall, Biteriot, Caernarvon Cherry

Why are some Biteriot employees paid $70 per day, and other Biteriot workers working 27.5 hours day, 192 hours per week? What is the right level of employee remuneration / incentive in a pandemic, what can other farmers learn from Nuffield Scholar, Fiona Hall and master motivator Claudio Brown?

Whine or wine?

Renowned winetaster, Fiona Hall of Biteriot recently complained about the local workforce in Orange, NSW saying:

the inability of overseas backpackers … had led to staff shortages … they employed university and high school students …

“We had some good locals, but we [also] had some locals who did one day on, one day off [lacking] consistency,” ….

Mrs Hall said the government’s COVID-relief payments had not helped with the staff shortages.

“It wasn’t an incentive for people to go out and pick cherries,” she said.

https://www.westernmagazine.com.au/story/7077807/challenging-cherry-season-ends-after-export-staff-and-rain-issues/?cs=1549

What is really going on at Biteriot?

The writer wonders, given chief fruit picker Fiona Hall is involved in the phoenixing of 4 Bonny Glen companies in liquidation with DW Advisory – does Fiona feel her companies have paid sufficient tax to warrant the Government providing some kind of fruit growers exemption from the Covid relief package?

The writer also wonders what has changed?

At one stage, Biteriot had no trouble getting unemployed local teenagers to work picking fruit. A case in point is the worker known as Claudio Brown.

Claudio's payslip - Biteriot
Claudio’s payslip – Biteriot

Once upon a time Biteriot employed Claudio who, whilst still a minor, worked a total of 27.5hrs a day.

The writer observes that Claudio Brown paid no tax (perhaps the kind of incentive Fiona has in mind?)

Fiona wants to employ motivated staff like Claudio Brown???

The writer wonders why Fiona, an alleged Nuffield Scholar, doesn’t re-employ Claudio as a mentor to help “some locals” (as Fiona refers to them) lacking motivation…. Claudio works 27.5 hours per day.

Does Biteriot expect too much of locals?

Perhaps Mrs Hall, before criticising Orange locals, apart from employing Claudio Brown as a mentor, should she also perhaps consider a report from the employees perspective in today’s ABC (online)?

Extracted from a story on ABC – source: https://www.abc.net.au/news/2021-01-14/when-backpackers-went-home-these-australians-tried-farm-work/13047062

The ABC article discusses potential motivational topics for Claudio Brown to coach SOME locals on:

What fruitpickers say (ABC):

ABC reported:

Nineteen-year-old Matthew Rolston bought a bus ticket … had the full backpacker experience — even staying in a hostel.

His first ever fruit-picking job was “actually rather enjoyable” at first.

“I kind of went through half a bottle of water, realised there was nowhere to fill it up and had to ration half a bottle of water for the rest of the day,” he said. …

Hostels cost more than wages earned

Things on the farm ended “rather sourly” for Mr Rolston when his wages for six 10-hour working days came through — three weeks after he first started.

A man sitting on the ground.

Luka said he made $280 in six days picking fruit.(Supplied)

“And then, when we did end up getting paid, we didn’t get the full amount,” he said.

“I was supposed to earn around $550, I ended up getting $450.

“There was no way that we’d be making over a $1,000.”

His friend Luka Wighton, who also worked on the farm, said he had gone along hoping for “a bit of an adventure” — but ended up feeling “a little bit taken advantage of”.

“It was exhausting work … I mean, I’d be fine with it, if it was more pay, but we were kind of at a loss,” he said.

His $280 wage — paid on piece-rate agreement — meant he paid more for his accommodation at the hostel than he earned, as did Mr Rolston.

“I didn’t expect to make much money, but I thought I’d go back with a little bit of a profit,” Mr Wighton said.

Chloe said she gets paid hourly and that her rate was about $14.

Jodie* was hesitant to share her tale of rejection under her real name … At times she said felt employers “danced around” the wage topic, tried to make the job sound “as unappealing as possible” or made “unreasonable” requests.

She said she was starting to think some farmers might prefer migrant workers to Australians because they would be less likely to complain about small wages.

“I feel like they don’t have the same sort of legal requirements around wages,” she said.

“I know a lot of them live on site and [employers] charge them accommodation and all that sort of stuff.”

https://www.abc.net.au/news/2021-01-14/when-backpackers-went-home-these-australians-tried-farm-work/13047062

What Biteriot employees are paid (SBS):

The writer observes Fiona Hall’s worker told SBS he was paid about $70 per day!

Not bad!

Biteriot - backpacker pay rates
Biteriot – backpacker pay rates – $70 per day …. …. see video @15m, 10seconds

Source: https://www.sbs.com.au/ondemand/video/1745497667922/dateline-pandemic-farming-apples-and-oranges?action=play …. see video @15m, 10seconds

This is sharply different to the wage of under 18 year old local fruitpicker known as Claudio Brown – earning sometime $4800 per week (tax free) working 27.5 hours a day.

Despite the writer having an MBA, the writer would need to draw upon the expertise of Nuffield Scholar Fiona Hall to know which is the appropriate level of pay and incentive and what government incentives (or dis-incentives) should apply?

Claudio's payslip - Biteriot
Claudio’s payslip – Biteriot

What other Biteriot employees have to say?

The writer is unsure whether the below staff are working 27.5 hours per day or on a more conventional $70 per day pay rate? The writer notes however the following independent review on Biteriot via google:

Source: https://bit.ly/3sveACg

Want to know more? Like to enrol in a Claudio Brown motivational course? Like to get better productivity from your picking team?

Would you like to tell us confidentially about your experiences? Are you interested to join the Caernarvon / Biteriot Employee Wage Theft class action?

Do you know Claudio Brown?

Do you know if this is the voice of Claudio Brown?

is this the voice of Claudio Brown? #whoisclaudiobrown

Do you have information on government incentives Biteriot should get to subsidise its workforce?

For more information – chat with us live using our instant chat tools (bottom corners), book an appointment or call now on 1300-327123 (till late).

To contact us with any confidential tip-offs, files or information – please use the instant chat tools or form below:

Caernarvon Cherry – employee class action

wage theft

Wage theft has been in the news in recent months with some State governments enacting laws to assist employees who have been the victim of wage theft.   

DCP has been approached by a number of people formerly employed at a company named Caernarvon Cherry Pty Ltd (possibly better known as Biteriot Cherry’s or Biteriot Apples (recently re-birthed as Biteriot Operations Pty Ltd)) of 474 Canobolas Rd, Orange (Biteriot).

Biteriot is presently being sued in the Federal Circuit Court (case SYG3175) for a case of alleged wage theft and other former employees may also be entitled to receive money?  Caernarvon is defending the case with the assistance of the NSW Farmers Federation. Caernarvon Cherry is operated by its Directors, Bernard and Fiona Hall. Fiona Hall was awarded a Nuffield Scholarship.

DCP Litigation has been asked to assemble a class action to claim allegedly underpaid wages – which is separate from another class action being finalised for allegedly ripped off farmers.

DCP Litigation is an associated company. We will shortly be announcing we have obtained the use of an AFSL in order to lawfully undertake class action and public litigation funding. More information to follow in a separate post.

Below are some articles explaining the serious issue of Wage Theft. Concerningly, Biteriot employed a number of persons convicted of fraud / criminal offences – including its former paymistress – Paula Neill and Accountant Bruce Johnston.

To sign up to the class action as an employee/victim click here: https://share.hsforms.com/1j9KAqztTSoWDhB2KOZx-tg2uveq

To go to our seperate farmer’s class action page click here.

If you have any questions please feel free to contact us via email us on class-actions@dcpartners.solution or live chat with us on this webpage – click in the bottom corner to livechat now.

Regards

Mark Smith, Director

PS.  If you prefer to raise your concerns about underpayment with the company itself, please email its director Fiona Hall on …. info@biteriot.com.au or call the company on (02) 6365 3477.  

Wage theft articles 

  1. Australian Unions article – https://www.australianunions.org.au/wage_theft_factsheet
  2. Victorian Government wage theft announcement – https://www.premier.vic.gov.au/new-laws-to-crack-down-on-wage-theft/
  3. Redfern Legal Centre blog – https://rlc.org.au/article/short-what-do-if-you-are-experiencing-wage-theft
  4. What to do if you are a victim of wage theft – https://rlc.org.au/article/short-what-do-if-you-are-experiencing-wage-theft
  5. Fairwork Commission video – https://youtu.be/9DdCc2qQeow
  6. ‘Like torture’: Australia’s wage theft epidemic runs deeper than recent headlines – https://thenewdaily.com.au/finance/work/2020/02/21/wage-theft-analysis/
  7. Underpaid (English language) – https://rlc.org.au/publication/factsheet-no3-underpaid-work
  8. Underpaid (Chinese language) – https://rlc.org.au/publication/factsheet-no3-underpaid-work-chinese-simple
  9. Paula Neill – Caernarvon pay-mistress profile: https://www.westernadvocate.com.au/story/1546606/woman-ordered-to-pay-back-thousands/
  10. Bruce Johnston – Caernarvon accountant profile: https://www.centralwesterndaily.com.au/story/4571593/gambler-jailed-after-losing-supreme-court-appeal/