New law won’t stop farm worker exploitation

THE proposed labour hire licensing law is destined to fail, and will do nothing to stop exploitation of horticulture workers on farms in Lockyer Valley, Wide Bay and Stanthorpe.

That’s the claim Recruitment and Consulting Services Association chief executive officer Charles Cameron will make on Thursday when he addresses the Queensland Government’s Finance and Administration Committee.

Labor introduced the bill in May in an attempt to crack down on rogue labour hire companies’ mistreatment of workers, which has included overworking and underpaying staff.

But Mr Cameron believes the proposed law will not stop labour firms doing the wrong thing.

“This bill, as it stands, will fail to protect all workers from exploitation and will not stamp out the poor practices of criminal and rogue labour hire firms,” Mr Cameron said.

“It will not for example cover contracting and, as a result, will leave a huge loophole for workforce contracting firms in the horticulture sector.”

Industry group Growcom also raised concerns about the bill in its submission to the committee.

Growcom chief advocate Rachel Mackenzie wrote the organisation supported better oversight of the labour hire industry but remained concerned the bill would not necessarily deal with “some of the key issues and may potentially have unintended consequences”.

The submission reiterated the importance of seasonal workers to horticultural farmers: “Labour hire companies play an important role in the horticulture industry, particularly in relation to accessing seasonal labour in a short timeframe.

“If a grower requires 200 workers to get the mango harvest in, there is a 4-6 week window to undertake that work but little hope of finding all those workers locally.

“This is a daily reality for growers.”

Mr Cameron said the law was politically motivated and geared at “propping up falling union memberships”.

“It is therefore abundantly clear that this bill has been written to help unions turn around their ongoing membership decline,” he said.

However, Industrial Relations Minister Grace Grace was quick to dismiss the accusation.

“The legislation responds to well-documented evidence of problems with the labour hire industry,” she said.

“The purpose of the legislation is to regulate an industry that has gone unregulated for far too long and is fast becoming a national disgrace and, as well as to protect workers from unfair exploitation.”

Ms Grace said the bill was to “clean up” the whole labour hire sector.

“The reputation of good labour hire companies is being tarnished by those dodgy companies that continue to exploit workers,” she said.

– NewsRegional

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