Protecting vulnerable workers in Queensland

Protecting vulnerable workers in Queensland

Queensland has introduced legislation to create a new licensing scheme that regulates labour hire companies in construction and other industries.

If the Queensland Premier gets her way, labour hire operators will soon need a licence to operate in the state.

Annastacia Palaszczuk is cracking down on rogue operators who are exploiting and mistreating vulnerable workers in various industries, including construction.

“You need a licence to operate a real estate agency or to be a motor car dealer, so why shouldn’t you need a licence to run a labour hire firm?”, Premier Palaszczuk said in a media statement.

Last month the Palaszczuk government introduced a Bill to create the mandatory labour hire licensing scheme. Victoria is the only other state or territory considering a similar system, at this stage.

The proposed scheme will ensure that only licensed labour hire providers operate in Queensland. It aims to protect workers by demanding that all providers meet the following requirements:

– Pass a fit-and-proper person test

– Comply with strict workplace laws (workers’ compensation, wages, superannuation and more)

– Pay a license fee

– Provide regular reports on their operations

– Disclose the number of employees hired, as well as the number of people on work visa arrangements

This development follows a 2016 Queensland Parliamentary inquiry into labour hire practices, which found that workers in construction and other industries are being exploited by dodgy labour hire operators. One firm even underpaid workers by $77 000 over nearly eight weeks.

Proposed legislation seeks to put an end to this unscrupulous behaviour. Maurice Blackburn Lawyers welcome the changes and call for the rest of Australia to follow suit by adopting a national license scheme.

“Worker exploitation, including wage theft, has become rampant within many industries across Australia due to poor regulation, particularly in our hospitality, retail, agriculture and construction sectors,” Principal Giri Sivaraman said.

“A national scheme has the potential to provide a better standard across the labour hire industry once and for all,” he said.

Under the proposed legislation, there will be tough penalties for those who break the laws and some offenders may even face criminal prosecution. A compliance unit will keep licence holders in check and investigate complaints.

The proposal is currently open for written submissions, until Monday 19 June 2017 at 4pm.