Workers and unions have another weapon in the battle against underpayment and exploitation from tomorrow (15 June) when labour hire provider licences become mandatory in Queensland.
From 15 June 2018, all labour hire providers in Queensland must be licensed or have applied for a licence after state Parliament passed laws earlier this year.
Queensland Council of Unions General Secretary Ros McLennan said a concerted union and community effort last year had succeeded in establishing the first labour hire licensing laws in an Australian state jurisdiction.
“Before these laws it was easier to start a labour hire firm than getting your licence to drive, and that wasn’t right. We needed to change the rules around labour hire!
“We’ve heard shocking stories of workers on labour hire arrangements being underpaid thousands and thousands of dollars across all sorts of industries and sectors, and it’s got to stop,” she said.
Now in Queensland labour hire workers can check whether their employer has a licence through www.labourhire.qld.gov.au website.
Ms McLennan said regulating the labour hire industry was necessary to stamp out rogue operators engaging in massive wage theft from vulnerable workers.
A government compliance unit has already been created and will:
- require mandatory licensing for labour hire operators,
- require a fit and proper person test before labour hire operators are issued a licence,
- require regular reporting by licensed labour hire operators, and
- provide for strong penalties for any breach of obligations.
“The impact on law abiding business will be negligible, as the reporting requirements should not be onerous for an organisation complying with the law,” said Ms McLennan.
“Regular reporting and potential inspection will hold the labour hire operator accountable for complying with a range of other laws, such as the Fair Work Act, taxation law, workplace health and safety, as well as workers’ compensation and proper payment of superannuation entitlements.”
Sergio was a contract cleaner who had direct experience with labour hire exploitation.
“When I was working as a cleaner I didn’t get my payslips. I worked 12 hours and only got paid for 3 hours. I was employed on an ABN was paid $15 per hour instead of $30 per hour,” he said recently at a community launch celebrating the new labour hire laws.
“I worked in a hotel and my boss stole $10,000 from me and my five colleagues because he didn’t pay us. It’s hard to speak about this when your boss can tell you not to turn up to work tomorrow,” he said.
Unions have long campaigned about the misuse of labour hire and the adverse impact it has on workers’ conditions of employment, wages and quality of life, as well as the financial future of their families and communities.
Recent figures also show that Australia now has more workers on casual and insecure employment than workers in permanent full-time employment.
“Labour hire providers are a huge part of this damaging trend,” said Ms McLennan.
“The rest of Australia should follow the Queensland lead by creating a national labour hire licensing system to ensure labour hire companies are not cutting wages and conditions.
“Unions want to change the rules so that labour hire workers cannot be paid less than the permanent employees working in the same company,” she said.