State government should follow SA lead on labour hire licensing

Queensland unions want the State Government to follow South Australia’s lead and introduce licensing of labour hire firms.

Queensland Council of Unions Assistant General Secretary Michael Clifford said unregulated labour hire continued to concern workers and unions.

A South Australian government committee report this week recommended licensing of labour hire firms to protect workers from exploitation, as the federal government refuses to act on implementing a nationwide scheme. Licensing of labour hire firms is federal Labor policy.

Mr Clifford said the Queensland government should follow the South Australian lead.

Labour hire firms have become notorious for exploiting workers across industries, as exposed by 4 Corners episode “Slaving Away” and numerous other independent government investigations, in addition to state-based inquiries.

“Regulating the labour hire industry is necessary to stamp out those rogue operators who engage in massive wage theft from vulnerable workers,” he said.

“A number of State Parliaments - including Queensland – have found that labour hire is killing job security and employees’ confidence in their futures,” he said.

“The evidence shows labour hire arrangements undermine secure jobs and reduce working conditions,” he said.

“It means workers and their families can’t plan for their financial futures and they are reluctant to speak out about workplace issues like health and safety,” he said.

A recent Parliamentary Finance and Administration Committee heard from affected workers in labour hire arrangements across the state but non-government members of the Committee eventually opposed an inquiry recommendation to ensure greater compliance from labour hire operators.

Mr Clifford urged the Queensland government to overcome the cheap partisan politics which have derailed efforts to improve working conditions for more than 100,000 Queensland workerswho have found work in labour hire firms.

He called on the Government to act decisively on the evidence and improve the protection of vulnerable workers by ensuring improved and effective regulation of the labour hire industry. 

A recent Fair Work Ombudsman report into the 417 visa scheme for backpackers also found widespread exploitation and underpayment by labour hire firms that engage these workers.

It also found employers engaging in sophisticated labour supply chains involving sham contracting, with visa-holders being engaged as contractors and not employees.

Mr Clifford said these were all signs that Australia’s labour hire industry urgently needed regulation and firmer policing.

“The community anger at the practices inherent in labour hire are clear when Australians are prepared to give up beer in support of the 55 Carlton United Breweries workers who have been mistreated by labour hire arrangements,” he said.

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