Farm fined $60k for hiring illegal workers

Working on Vizzari Farms in February 2016.

By Tara Cosoleto, Aap, and Cam Lucadou-Wells

A Kooweerup farming company that employed illegal workers from Springvale and Clayton to pick and pack asparagus and broccolini has been fined $60,000.

M&G Vizzarri Pty Ltd pleaded guilty in the Victorian County Court to recklessly employing nine illegal workers at its farm in 2016.

The employees, who did not have the visa provisions to lawfully work in Australia, were paid under the award rate with women earning $14 an hour and men given $15 an hour, County Court Judge Trevor Wraight said on Friday 10 June.

No one at M&G Vizzarri checked the employees’ visas, despite the business being aware of an online government system set up to help Australian companies with the task.

One of the Vizzarri directors gave evidence that the workers were bussed in from the Springvale and Clayton area.

The farm was raided by Australian Border Force and Australian Federal Police officers in December 2, 2016, and the nine illegal workers were found packing vegetables.

Time sheets showed the workers also worked other days.

There was no evidence of deliberate avoidance of its responsibilities under the Migration Act, Judge Wraight said.

But the company should have known the status of the workers’ visas and taken steps to ensure they were working legally, he said.

The judge noted M&G Vizzarri had since implemented the relevant systems, had not reoffended, and had a previously clean record since established in 1993.

But other Australian companies needed to be deterred from committing similar offences, Judge Wraight said.

M&G Vizzarri – Australia’s largest producer of asparagus and broccolini – employs up to 600 workers as well as 160 contract workers a year.

It was convicted and fined $60,000. If the company did not plead guilty, it would have been fined $100,000

Sarith Kit, of Keysborough, who was hired by M&G Vizzarri to source and manage workers, was last year convicted and fined $40,000 for his role in the operation.