There have been 21 enquiries received by the Produce and Grocery Industry Ombudsman (PGIO) between 1 July 2008 and 30 June 2009. 2 of these enquirers were referred onwards where they were outside the role of the PGIO.
In regards to these 21 enquiries it has been the philosophy of the PGIO to attempt to facilitate resolution before an application for mediation is received. We have found that by bringing the respondent’s attention to the complaint received and allowing them a set period of time in order to negotiate directly, many of the matters raised can be settled in full or partially settled to the point that no further action has been required by the PGIO.
For each enquiry received, our office has forwarded an information pack to the enquirer and explained our role as PGIO. 8 enquirers have requested the PGIO to take their matter further and to contact the other party to inform them of an issue being raised with the PGIO and to encourage direct negotiation within a set period. 3 of these 8 enquirers proceeded to make an application for mediation and we expect a further application shortly. Of the remaining 4 there has been no further action taken and in some cases we have received positive feedback of resolution being reached.
There have been 3 applications for mediation received during this reporting period. A 4th application was received during the prior reporting period but has had a mediator (Ombudsman’s Representative) appointed by the PGIO during this period. As a result there have been 4 mediators appointed during this period.
1 of the above matters reached settlement prior to formal mediation with the assistance of the mediator.
2 mediations have been conducted during this period. 1 has resulted in settlement, while the other matter did not reach settlement.
1 further mediation appointment is currently in progress. The parties are agreeing to a date for mediation with the mediator.
The success rate of the PGIO’s facilitative approach to disputes within this industry remains encouraging. Given the low level of mediation applications and the positive feedback received, it would seem that this approach is working well within the produce and grocery industry at this point in time. Enquirers seem to feel at ease knowing that the PGIO exists and that there is a procedure for dispute resolution when it is needed.
It is also encouraging to note that parties have been willing to attend mediation, despite there being no compulsion to do so under the voluntary Code.
We have not perceived there to be any problem with the operation or effectiveness of the Code.
Recent telephone enquiries indicate that the industry is well informed of the existence of the Code and that participants seem to value the safety net that it provides in the confidential nature of the dispute resolution service.
In addition, through the education activities of the PGIO and the role of various industry groups, industry participants seem to be increasingly informed of the role of the PGIO. Representative bodies that contact our office are given our information pack so that it can be distributed to those that may require information on resolving disputes.
There does not seem to be any emerging trend or issue at this point in time other than a consistent level of enquiries specific to this Code. The level of enquiries remains consistent despite the presence of the mandatory Horticulture Code.
Nature of Enquiries
The nature of enquiries received by the PGIO varies. Of the 21 enquiries received during this period, 17 were made by growers or grower representatives, 2 by a wholesaler, 1 by a charity retailer and 1 by an agent.
The enquiries were as follows,