Mandatory licensing of labour hire companies will be introduced in Queensland in a bid to crack-down on rogue operators who are exploiting and mistreating vulnerable workers.
Announcing the scheme at a Labour Day rally in Brisbane, Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said mandatory licensing had become the only option with Malcolm Turnbull repeatedly turning a blind eye to labour hire rorts.
“Despite widespread evidence of rorting and the growing exploitation of Queensland workers employed through labour hire companies, Malcolm Turnbull refuses to act,” The Premier said.
“That’s why Queensland will go it alone by introducing a mandatory licensing scheme to protect vulnerable workers from exploitation and mistreatment.
“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?
“Just last month a Queensland labour hire company was found to have underpaid workers $77,649 over a seven week period.
“Some of these workers were at times forced to work entire days harvesting produce without food or drink, without pay, as well as being forced to live in isolated transient accommodation.
“The only way to put an end to this kind of appalling exploitation is through the introduction of a proper labour hire regulation scheme.”
Ms Palaszczuk said under the proposed mandatory licensing scheme, all labour hire providers operating in Queensland would need to:
- pass a fit-and-proper person test;
- comply with strict workplace laws, including workers’ compensation, wages and superannuation;
- pay a license fee;
- report regularly on their operations; and
- divulge the number of employees they have engaged, along with the number of employees engaged through work visa arrangements.
Industrial Relations Minister Grace Grace said labour hire rorts were fast becoming a national disgrace.
“Barely a week goes by without yet another story of blatant worker exploitation, enabled by rogue labour hire providers,” Ms Grace said.
“We consulted widely with key industry stakeholders on the challenges facing the industry and the vast majority support mandatory licensing.
“They’re sick and tired of seeing workers outrageously exploited, and fed up with being undercut by shonky operators who flout the rules with impunity.
“Our mandatory licensing scheme is aimed squarely at protecting workers and restoring a level playing field so that ethical operators can compete fairly, without imposing any unnecessary administrative burdens.
“Our proposed new laws will be backed by stiff penalties and some offenders will be liable for criminal prosecution.
“A compliance unit will also be established to check licence holders for continued compliance with their licence conditions, and to investigate complaints.”
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.