Rail Tram and Bus Union Queensland Branch
 
 
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Labour Hire: Proposed Worker Protection Against Exploitation

I’m sure members are well aware labour hire has unfortunately become a prominent player in employment of workers over the last few years. This has, at times, contributed towards greater insecurity of employment in society which has impacted heavily particularly, though not solely, in regional areas.

Aurizon and other freight operators have been utilising this form of employment quite often and it became a feature of employment in QR under the Newman Government in particular.

I am sure many members have noted the obscene exploitation reported in the media over the last twelve months which included vulnerable workers getting paid practically nothing for their labours, being provided with squalid overcrowded accommodation and, in some instances, being subjected to physical and sexual assault.

This is not the Australian way and certainly not acceptable standards within our society. The Queensland Council of Unions has been pursuing this matter for some time and succeeded in persuading the Palaszczuk Government to undertake an investigation through Parliamentary Committee. The Committee report was handed down earlier this year and recognised some very negative impacts on workers and exploitive unlawful behaviour occurring. However there was some concern about the joint parliamentary committee’s recommendations to address this and Queensland unions, with the RTBU playing a prominent part, lobbied for the Government to explore implementing more extensive regulation than that recommended by the joint parliamentary committee for this form of employment.

Evidence provided to the Parliamentary Committee included:

Cases of sexual harassment of workers;
Workers housed in overcrowded and sub-standard accommodation;
Unauthorised deductions from pay and underpayment of workers;
Lack of proper safety equipment and appropriate training; and
Companies disappearing leaving workers stranded without their entitlements.

I am pleased to say that the Palaszczuk Government has now determined that in light of this report it was necessary for them to consider measures to improve the protection of vulnerable workers and ensure the improvement of the regulation of the labour hire industry.
The Government
has advised that an additional option for a labour hire licence scheme has to be considered and issues being explored in this respect will include:

Bond payments to guarantee employee entitlements;
Annual licensing fees;
Threshold capital requirements for labour hire companies to operate in Queensland;
Mandatory workplace rights training for employees of labour hire companies; and
A dedicated compliance unit.

The RTBU is very pleased with the response from Government as we consider this not just to be an important social issue but one that has impact on many members’ short and long term job security given the current and growing prevalence of labour hire employment within industries generally, with the transport industry being no exception.

I will keep members abreast of any developments in this matter.

Unity is Strength

Owen Doogan
RTBU State Secretary,
Queensland Branch