On Labour Day, Unions welcome laws to clean up labour hire industry

Queensland unions have welcomed the announcement on Labour Day of state government plans to license labour hire firms.

Queensland Council of Unions General Secretary Ros McLennan says regulating the labour hire industry is necessary to stamp out those rogue operators engaging in massive wage theft from vulnerable workers.

“We’ve heard shocking stories of workers on labour hire arrangements being underpaid thousands and thousands of dollars, and it’s got to stop,” she said.

“Malcolm Turnbull and the LNP have had ample opportunity to clean up the industry through licensing but they won’t act,” she said.

Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk made the announcement during a speech before a massive Labour Day crowd in Brisbane.

She said legislation to give effect to mandatory labour hire licensing will be introduced in May, with the scheme expected to be up and running in 2018.

Queensland unions made several submissions to a recent Parliamentary Finance and Administration Committee into labour hire but non-government members of the Committee eventually opposed an inquiry recommendation to ensure greater compliance from labour hire operators.

Ms McLennan commended the Queensland government for taking steps to improve working conditions for more than 100,000 Queensland workers who have found work in labour hire firms.

Ms McLennan said it was significant that this scheme was announced on Labour Day.

“Across the state over the Labour Day weekend we’ve seen record turnouts, reflecting the community support for our call to protect penalty rates,” she said.

She estimated more than 30,000 people marched in Brisbane, with thousands more marching in more than a dozen regional locations.

“This day continues to be a rallying call for Australian workers to fight against inequality,” she said.

She says working people need to join their union to change the system stacked against them, as more corporates adopt business models of wage theft and employment law avoidance.

“Stronger membership will strengthen union campaigns for decent jobs and secure work, especially in regional Queensland, and better health and safety standards to ensure all workers come home safe at the end of the day.”

Queensland’s 126th year of observance of Labour Day again recognised achievements of the union movement for wider society, including health and safety laws, compulsory superannuation, parental leave, fair wages and working conditions, and many other benefits for all the community.

The Queensland Nurses and Midwives’ Union headed this year’s march for the first time.

New Australian Council of Trade Unions Secretary Sally McManus also marched with the Brisbane crowd, as well as making a speech to the gathered thousands.

Marches, activities and family fun days were also held in many other centres around the state.