Labor leader Anthony Albanese has tabled a private members’ bill which he says aims to end the ‘labour hire rorts’ that are “ripping off” workers across the Australian economy.
The bill is aimed at ensuring that labour hire workers doing the same work as directly hired employees receive the same pay and conditions, and Albanese has urged the federal government to back it.
As usual, Australian Industry Group (AIG) CEO Innes Willox has described the bill as “unwarranted, unfair and unworkable”, while Industrial Relations Minister Michaelia Cash has accused Labor and unions of “demonising” Australians who choose to undertake casual or part-time work.
There are 1162 words left in this subscriber-only article.
Get your first month for $1
From The Australian:
The Labor leader introduced the bill into federal parliament on Monday to address what he said was an “inequality” where labour hire workers doing the same job and same hours as direct employees were paid less and received less-favourable conditions…
“Workers doing the same job at the same mine, factory, construction site, abattoir, shop or office should get the same pay. It’s that simple,” he said.
“But right now companies are deliberately using labour hire firms that exploit casual workers to undermine job security and undercut wages…
ACTU secretary Sally McManus said action was needed to stop a business model that allowed labour hire firms to create a cheaper and more insecure workforce…
Industrial Relations Minister Michaelia Cash accused the ALP and unions of “demonising those Australians who choose to undertake casual or part time work”…
Australian Industry Group chief executive Innes Willox slammed the bill as “unwarranted, unfair and unworkable”, highlighting what he called its “extremely broad” definition of labour hire.
Labour hire is a key driver of wage theft and exploitation, especially among migrant workers.
Earlier this month, a class action was lodged against labour hire firms exploiting Pacific Island workers under the Seasonal Worker Program (SWP), in what was described as a “pandemic of worker abuse” .
Also recall what the parliamentary inquiry into establishing a modern slavery act said about labour hire firms:
9.146 The Committee recognises that recent Commonwealth, state and territory inquiries have highlighted the role that unscrupulous labour hire companies play in contributing to the exploitation of migrant workers…
9.150 While the Committee acknowledges that a labour licensing scheme is no ‘silver bullet’ to stopping exploitation and modern slavery, it considers that taken together with the Australian Government’s existing measures and the recommendations of this report, it will assist to improve protections for migrant workers…
9.152 The Committee recommends that the Australian Government establish a uniform national labour hire licensing scheme, consistent with recommendations by the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Law Enforcement, the Joint Standing Committee on Migration and the Senate Education and Employment References Committee. This licensing scheme should incorporate random audits and unannounced inspections of labour hire firms to ensure compliance.
The Working Holiday Maker (WHM) visa has similarly become a fertile ground for unscrupulous labour hire companies that abuse their workers, as explicitly noted in the 2016 Senate Standing Committee report “A National Disgrace: The Exploitation of Temporary Work Visa Holders”:
The WHM visa program is a poorly-regulated program, and the bulk of the evidence to the inquiry showed that the WHM visa program has been abused by unscrupulous labour hire companies in Australia with close links to labour hire agencies in certain south-east Asian countries ……… (labour hire companies) ……are in fact not only using the program to fill potential shortfalls in labour, but also to gain access to cheaper labour.
Inquiries into the labour hire sector in Victoria, Queensland and South Australia all came to the same conclusion: there is widespread exploitation of vulnerable workers and this requires a regulatory response.
In short, Anthony Albanese is right to target the ‘labour hire rorters’.