Licence scheme needed to clean-up Queensland labour hire industry

26 April 2016
Maurice Blackburn Lawyers have today called for a licensing scheme to be introduced in Queensland to clean-up the state’s labour hire industry and to further crack down on worker exploitation.

Maurice Blackburn Principal Giri Sivaraman said the introduction of a licensing scheme would play a key role in helping to improve the labour hire industry for workers, by better ensuring that only financially stable and safety compliant labour hire companies who were able to meet their obligations to workers could be licensed to operate in Queensland.

The firm has made the recommendation as part of a submission to State Parliament’s current Inquiry into the practices of the Labour Hire Industry in Queensland. Mr Sivaraman is currently assisting hundreds of underpaid and exploited 7-Eleven workers nation-wide.

“Worker exploitation – including underpayment of wages and forcing employees to work in unreasonable and unsafe conditions through labour hire arrangements – remains a significant problem not just in Queensland but nationally, and indeed we have called for this to be a priority issue at the Federal election,” Mr Sivaraman said.

“While some labour hire companies do the right thing, unfortunately there are still far too many who exploit workers and put worker safety at risk.

“Through this inquiry the Queensland Parliament has an important opportunity to take action to address these issues in our state, starting with the introduction of a licensing scheme for labour hire companies.

“We know that temporary workers are at risk of exploitation because many of these workers are unaware of their workplace rights and are victims of insecure work arrangements that make them vulnerable members of the workforce.

“Through the introduction of a licensing scheme and an appropriate body to oversee these efforts, Queensland can better address worker exploitation by ensuring that only companies who run safe practices and do the right thing by workers can be licensed.

“This would then flow on to end-user enterprises also, who would be legally obliged to only use licensed providers, as well as guaranteeing the payment of any entitlements owed to help minimise cost and risk shifting for workers.

“Importantly, we have also called for any oversight body to also have the power to revoke licences should a company be found to be no longer compliant. This again will send a strong message to labour hire companies and end-user enterprises that safety and worker rights can no longer be ignored.

“Such schemes have operated successfully in a range of other countries, including Canada, Korea, Japan, Germany, Austria, Spain, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Sweden, Belgium, France, South Africa, Portugal, and to a limited extent, in the UK – and it is now time for Queensland and Australia more broadly to act,” he said.

Mr Sivaraman said Maurice Blackburn’s submission had also urged the inquiry to consider the obligations of labour hire companies and host companies in assisting injured workers returning to work, and whether amendments to work, health and safety as well as workers’ compensation laws were needed to facilitate this. 

Maurice Blackburn’s submission to the Inquiry into the practices of the Labour Hire Industry in Queensland is available here: https://www.parliament.qld.gov.au/documents/committees/FAC/2015/I5-LabourHire/submissions/017.pdf

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