HOME GROWN: Industrial Relations Minister Grace Grace checks out some Rugby Farm produce with director Matt Hood.
HOME GROWN: Industrial Relations Minister Grace Grace checks out some Rugby Farm produce with director Matt Hood. Francis Witsenhuysen

Australian-first mandatory labour hire laws now in effect

IN a coup for labour hire companies, stakeholders and workers, Industrial Relations Minister Grace Grace has today launched the Queensland Labour Hire Licensing Scheme at Rugby Farm in Gatton.

Ms Grace said labour hire workers in Queensland would now have increased protection in a regulated industry where employers will be held accountable for misconduct.

"Labour hire has been an unregulated industry for far too long and, unfortunately, this has meant some rogue operators with scant regard for their obligations have been able to take advantage of employees,” Ms Grace said.

"In the past there have been cases of workers being underpaid or unpaid, being sexually harassed, forced to work ridiculously long hours, housed in crowded, sub-standard accommodation, or exposed to serious risks to their safety.

"We want to ensure that workers are not mistreated, exploited and protected from work operators. We don't want to scare off backpackers that a lot of growers in this area use to help them harvest their produce.”   

Under the new scheme, labour hire providers are now required to be licensed in Queensland and businesses who need to hire labour must only use licensed providers.

"We want to ensure that workers working for businesses know that they are trained, looked after well and paid well,” she said.

"These laws will enhance Queensland's reputation as a great place to work, including for backpackers and migrant workers who follow the seasonal harvest trail around the state.”

Ms Grace said the scheme sets minimum standards for labour hire providers and was established following extensive consultation with stakeholders. 

"You need a license to sell a house and you need one to sell a car, so it only makes sense that you would need a license to hire out labour,” she said.

"To obtain a licence, a labour hire provider must demonstrate that they are fit and proper to provide these services, can comply with relevant state and Commonwealth laws and that their business is financially viable.”

Existing labour hire providers have until June 15 of this year to apply for a licence and can continue to operate while their application is being processed.

Ms Grace said if current businesses did not obtain a licence before June 15, they would no longer be able to operate.

"All labour hire providers operating in Queensland need to be licensed under the scheme - including those based interstate or overseas who supply workers in Queensland,” she said.

"Be warned - if you provide labour hire services in Queensland without a licence or try to avoid your responsibilities, you may face jail time, a hefty fine or your license may be cancelled.”

A newly formed Labour Hire Licensing Compliance Unit will be responsible for regulating and ensuring compliance with the scheme.

”I'm pleased to say the scheme been operating one day and already 215 applications have come in to be registered and licensed to be labour hire providers,” Ms Grace said.

"We also had about 130 calls on our hotline.”

Rugby Farm director Matt Hood said the new scheme was a win for the horticulture industry.

"No one wants to see an employee or worker disadvantaged in anyway, especially in our industry when we rely so heavily on the international backpacker workforce staff,” Mr Hood said.

"We have a bout 40 percent international backpackers who do hand-harvest, field work and work in the packing shed.

"So as an industry if we didn't have the international backpacker workforce here, it would be unlikely we wouldn't get fruit and veggies on the shelves in the supermarkets, that's how important it is.”

For more information on the Queensland's Labour Hire Licensing Scheme go to www.labourhire.qld.gov.au

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