Exposing dodgy labour hire set to become a lot easier

More than 1450 Queensland-based labour hire companies and 100,000 workers will be directly impacted by the new labour hire licensing law, which was passed by the state government in early September.

The new law will mean Queensland companies will be required to pay for a licence and register on a website every six months.

It comes off the back of isolated high-profile cases of foreign worker exploitation in horticulture. The South Australian and Victorian governments are committed to introducing similar legislation.

The national industry body for recruitment and employment, RCSA, believes the new law, on its own, will not adequately protect vulnerable workers from being exploited by dodgy operators.

RCSA’s CEO Charles Cameron believes the answer lies with a combined approach of the licence and an industry-led national certification program.

RCSA worked with an international certifier group, SGS, along with industry bodies in agriculture and horticulture, government, unions and contractors to develop StaffSure.

To ensure they were on the right track, RCSA ran a pilot program with Queensland’s AWX Pty Ltd and Agri Labour Australia and four other labour hire companies from other states.

“We put our hand up to be involved in the pilot program due to the fact we are ISO accredited and we wanted to ensure the standard of this program was set as high,” AWX Regional Manager, Cameron Abrahams said. “The process was very thorough and specific to the industry, which is critical.

“StaffSure ensures a national level is set and that rogue operators that aren’t up to standard, or are trying to avoid super and tax obligations, are found out,” Abrahams said.

RCSA understands StaffSure will be mutually recognised within the new licensing scheme in Queensland. This will recognise the efforts of professional firms to operate ethically and legally and prevent them from getting wrapped up in red tape designed to target criminal operators.

Charles Cameron said this went some way to allaying fears that the Queensland law could leave loopholes for labour contractors to walk through and avoid the need to be licensed.

“While any attempt to protect workers from exploitation should be supported, in principle, licensing programs have been proven to tie lawful firms up with unnecessary red tape while not dealing effectively with illegal or unscrupulous operators,” Cameron said.

“The StaffSure initiative is more targeted to getting results. StaffSure is open to all workforce services providers, which includes labour hire firms, workforce contracting firms and contractor management firms, assures compliance across key areas. Compliance will also be checked with greater scope than the new law.”

A national database of certified providers will be created, providing employers and employees with the opportunity to check company credentials prior to engagement, ensuring they are choosing a legitimate provider.

Cameron said the StaffSure certification would allow buyers of staffing services to make an informed choice about the legitimacy of labour hire firms and workforce contractors.

“StaffSure, backed by buyers of labour hire in high-risk industries, will hit unscrupulous and illegal labour hire operators where it most impacts – their back pockets,’’ Cameron said.

“The certification of employment service providers will result in a market where buyers only buy from clean sellers and dirty sellers cease to exist because nobody is prepared to fund them. The good guys will be rewarded with contracts and the bad guys will be passed over.’’

The importance of the StaffSure program came into sharp focus during a recent Queensland parliamentary inquiry into the labour hire industry.

The inquiry found that “it is clear that labour hire has become a significant feature of working arrangements in Queensland’’, and as of September 2014 approximately 103,900 people found their job through a labour hire company.

Cameron believes mutual recognition of StaffSure and the licencing scheme is the only way to achieve real results in the increasingly complex industry.