Victorian Labour Hire Inquiry

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A landmark investigation has been launched into labour hire practices in Australia after alarming findings published in ABC's Four Corners program. The Four Corners report was followed by a spate of revelations from the vegetable and poultry industry about the misuse of labour hire workers. The Victorian government is currently scrutinising unlawful sham contracting, visa violations and the undercutting of minimum employment standards across a range of different industry sectors. This article outlines some of the possible outcomes of this investigation.

What is the Inquiry considering?

The Inquiry will consider the impact of tougher regulations for the state's labour hire industry, including the introduction of a licensing system under which labour hire firms will be forced to comply with certain conditions in order to maintain accreditation.

What might this licensing system look like?

There are many trade unions that have welcomed the suggestion, citing extensive mistreatment of labour hire workers at the hands of labour hire firms. Indeed, some union representatives have expanded on the idea of a licensing system, suggesting that a Fit and Proper Person test may be required, or a monetary bond that labour hire companies must pay in order to outsource workers.

What other options are there?

However, there have also been business leaders who have opposed the idea. ITCRA's Julie Mills and Australian Industry Group's Stephen Smith, for example, have both identified that the solution lies in compliance and enforcement, not in increased regulation. Whilst Smith champions the Employment Services Industry Code that is currently being developed by the RCSA, CEO of ITCRA Julie Mills states that the current legislative frameworks that apply (at least to white collar ICT professionals) are "complex and onerous" enough. She cautioned that "[s]uch regulation, if considered, must not create a regime for Victoria which could impact the productivity and effectiveness of Victorian industry and business in general." According to Mills, ITCRA members have indicated that licensing (where it does exist) does not deliver regulation in a form that makes a difference. Instead, Mills proposes that more businesses should support education and business tools, and points to ITCRA's commitment to industry standards like the People and Talent Management Standard. The standard consists of modules that capture key business areas such as safety, privacy, immigration, recruitment, talent management and quality (process and procedure). Do you have an opinion? Certex International welcomes any comments that our clients and readers may have on the matter. We will endeavour to channel your opinions into productive discussions for the Inquiry.

Alicja Gibert