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Queensland now first state with labour hire laws to clean up industry

Queensland is now the first Australian state with mandatory licensing for labour hire operators after union-backed laws passed State Parliament today.

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

Workers, community representatives and union delegates spent recent weeks securing pledges of support from MPs calling for the nation-leading legislation Labour Hire Licensing Bill 2017 to become law.

“Workers and unions have been working for many years for reform in this area, and we applaud the state Labor government for acting decisively,” said Ms McLennan.

“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.

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.

These nation-leading labour hire laws are another example of unions improving conditions for workers, and Queensland is the first Australian state with these laws, according to Ms McLennan.

Darryl Piper is a boilermaker in a mine in the Bowen Basin. He works alongside labour hire employees who do not share the same working conditions and job security. He says regulating the industry will ensure that dodgy operators will not be able to undercut the wages and conditions of permanent workers.

“It’s been a race to the bottom with labour hire, since the GFC,” he said.

“These laws will stop the fly-by-nighters because any Joe Bloggs can set up a labour hire operation.

“Licensing will mean better working conditions across the board,” he said.

Delegates from the National Union of Workers, the Australian Manufacturing Workers’ Union, the Australian Meat Industry Employees Union, and Queensland Council of Union representatives visited Queensland MPs over the past month with giant pledges supporting these labour hire laws.

All 42 Labor MPs, crossbenchers from the Katter Party and independents Billy Gordon and Rob Pyne voted for the legislation to pass. All LNP MPs voted against the laws.

The scheme is expected to be up and running in 2018. Important features include:

  • Mandatory licensing for labour hire operators,
  • A fit and proper person test before labour hire operators are issued a licence,
  • Regular reporting by licensed labour hire operators,
  • Strong penalties for any breach of obligations,
  • A compliance unit also providing an awareness, monitoring and enforcement function.

“The impact on business is 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.”