In 2015, the Victorian State Government launched an inquiry into the labour hire industry and insecure work.
The inquiry’s purpose was to look into the need for proper regulation of labour hire and the potential for exploitation of workers through the growth in insecure work. It was headed by Professor Anthony Forsyth from RMIT University.
The inquiry considered written submissions and held public hearings throughout Victoria. The SDA made a written submission and also presented its views and recommendations at a public hearing in Melbourne.
Following the submissions and public hearing, Professor Forsyth handed a 400 page report with recommendations to the State Government in August 2016.
The SDA believes the inquiry was timely, due to the large growth in the number of labour hire agencies in Victoria, the need for these agencies to be properly regulated, and for labour hire agencies to be properly employing and paying their employees.
Also, the increasing exploitation by unscrupulous employers of workers on visas has become a shame on Australia as a nation.
In its submission, the SDA sought for labour hire employers working for a host employer to be paid the on-site rates and conditions. If an enterprise agreement applied at the site, then those conditions should also apply to labour hire employees.
Labour hire employees should not be unfairly treated by a third party employer — they should be free to complain if they are not treated properly.
Labour hire agencies should be properly regulated by government. They should be registered in Victoria. They should have a proper legal business structure and not have any director who is, or has been, a bankrupt or has a criminal conviction.
In relation to insecure work, the SDA highlighted the growing cases of exploitation of foreign workers on visas in companies like 7-Eleven.
Foreign workers, such as international students on visas, are commonly being exploited.
This exploitation has even had world-wide publicity. It has been an international blight on Australia, a country that gives everyone a fair go, not a raw deal.
Governments must educate foreign workers on visas about their working nights.
Governments must also crack down on any unscrupulous employer taking advantage of workers on visas.
Despite all the recent publicity about workers on visas being exploited, the practice still continues.
Franchisors must also be more accountable for the action of franchisees who employ and exploit vulnerable visa holders.
The inquiry’s report has made a number of recommendations for the State Government to consider and implement. Several recommendations are in-line with those sought by the SDA.
In particular, the report recommends the licensing and regulation of labour hire agencies in Victoria. The State Government will move to regulate labour hire agencies so that the agencies can properly function and provide decent jobs for those who work in labour hire.
The report recommends that labour hire employees should receive the onsite rates and conditions of the host employer, including any benefits under an enterprise agreement.
The report also recommends more education about employment rights for those workers on visas. The Federal Government has taken some steps to clamp down on the exploitation that is occurring but more should be done.
The SDA welcomes this important inquiry.
It will impact on retail, fast food and warehousing in Victoria.
The SDA is pleased that the report recommends the licensing of labour hire agencies.
The SDA is also pleased with the recommendation that labour hire workers are paid not less than the entitlements of any enterprise agreement covering the direct employees of the host employer.
The SDA looks forward to further work by the State Government to implement these changes by legislation, or regulation if necessary.