Senate Estimates – Does it pass the Woolgrower Test?

28 February, 2017

WoolProducers Australia (WPA) today has one question for woolgrowers – does the staff ex gratia payouts granted by Australian Wool Innovation (AWI) pass the woolgrower test?

The question follows AWI’s appearance at today’s Senate estimates hearing, where it was revealed that a number of outrageously high staff redundancies and additional ex gratia payments were paid during the last financial year.

Under questioning today, AWI reported that ex gratia payments made to former staff were well above both the National Employment Standards and the Australian Public Service. These payments are additional to the obligatory accrued leave and notice periods required.

Senate estimates this morning revealed that one employee who was employed on a full-time basis for five years receiving a salary of $311,000 (and six years’ prior as a consultant to AWI), was then granted an additional ex gratia payment of nearly $100,000 when made redundant.

WPA Senior Vice-President Ed Storey said “while understanding and happily accepting that every employee is required to be paid any outstanding entitlements, these payments are plainly excessive.”

The majority of AWI’s income comes from the compulsory levy paid by woolgrowers.

“As an industry owned, grower funded body these extreme payouts are being paid out of growers’ pockets. Mr Storey said.

Given the wool industry has no independent oversight mechanism for levy expenditure that other agricultural industries have, the Board of AWI has the final say in how grower money is spent. With this comes a huge responsibility to ensure that every dollar is spent in the best interest of growers.

In their 2016/17-18/19 Strategic Plan, AWI states that all staff are reminded of the ‘woolgrower test’, which according to AWI ‘underpins the day-to-day operations of all AWI staff across the globe – ‘would this action be acceptable to woolgrowers’.

“Upon hearing details of how these redundancies have been dealt with, particularly in comparison to woolgrower’s income, I doubt that these payouts would pass the woolgrower test.” Mr Storey concluded.

ENDS

WoolProducers Australia contact:

Jo Hall

Chief Executive Officer

0488 554 811