A new plan for the registration of labour hire firms, designed to stop exploitation of foreign workers by unscrupulous companies, has been laid out by peak vegetable industry body AUSVEG. Under the proposed scheme, labour hire firms would need to seek approval from the Departments of Employment and Immigration, the Australian Taxation Office, and the workplace safety body in their state before gaining accreditation as an approved firm and being placed on a public register.
“Access to labour continues to be a pressing issue for Australian growers, and backpackers on temporary work visas play a vital role in the horticultural sector during peak seasonal periods,” said AUSVEG Deputy CEO Andrew White.
”Unfortunately, we continue to see high-profile cases of unconscionable behaviour by unscrupulous labour hire firms who exploit and abuse their contracted workers. This clearly shows that there needs to be greater oversight of the labour hire industry.”
“The current lack of regulation means that even if a company is identified as exploiting or abusing workers, they can vanish and begin again under another name quickly and easily – what’s known as ‘phoenix activity’,” said Mr White.
“By making a positive register for labour hire firms that have proven their compliance with Australian immigration, taxation and industrial relations law, the Federal Government will be able to prevent this behaviour and help clean up a sector rife with misconduct.”
AUSVEG’s proposal also includes regular inspection or auditing by the Government to prove a company’s continuing compliance with the standards required to be an accredited firm.
Farmers and workers will be encouraged to use the register to ensure that labour hire firms who act in compliance with Australian law are rewarded for their behaviour.
“As well as the human cost of this exploitation and abuse of workers, the conduct of these rogue firms is damaging Australia’s reputation among both travellers and overseas workers,” said Mr White.
“With horticulture relying so heavily on labour hire firms who source backpackers for their contracts, we’re looking to work with the Australian Government on decisive action that can protect workers and make sure unconscionable operators don’t damage Australian industry.”
AUSVEG is the leading horticultural body representing more than 9,000 Australian vegetable and potato growers. Ω
Posted 11 December 2015