LOCAL state MPs Danny O’Brien and Tim Bull have been criticised by the state government for opposing legislation to stop exploitation in the labour hire industry.
Industrial Relations Minister Natalie Hutchins’ office has sent media releases to newsrooms across the state, but localised to attack particular Nationals or Liberal MPs for voting against the Labour Hire Licensing Bill 2017, which will introduce a universal licensing scheme to protect labour hire workers.
Under the new scheme, labour hire services may only be provided by organisations that hold a licence and be listed on a publicly accessible register.
To obtain a licence, providers will have to pass “a fit and proper person test” and show compliance with workplace laws, labour hire laws, and minimum accommodation standards.
A licensing inspectorate within the Labour Hire Licensing Authority will monitor and investigate compliance with the scheme, with rogue operators that flout the new rules liable for hefty civil and criminal penalties.
Ms Hutchins said the state opposition was “abandoning some of Victoria’s most vulnerable workers”.
She said Opposition Leader Matthew Guy was trying to protect an industry that had been infiltrated by organised crime.
Labor colleague, Eastern Victoria MLC Harriet Shing, joined the criticism.
“If the Liberals and Nationals actually want to support the many Gippsland employers who are being undercut by dodgy labour hire operations, they need to back these changes, so we can clean up the industry and make things fair and consistent for labour hire workers and business across Victoria,” Ms Shing said.
Mr Bull, who is the MLA for Gippsland East, described the generic media release as a “cheap shot in an election year”.
“As I stated on several occasions in my speech in parliament on this bill, it is paramount that all employees do need to be paid the right wage, they need to be paid in full and they need to have their rights looked after and preserved,” he said.
“However, this bill goes further than the government’s own expert inquiry, which recommended licensing for specific sectors only, and it imposes unnecessary paperwork and administrative costs on businesses.”
Mr O’Brien, the Gippsland South MLA, accused Labor of being “loose with the truth again”.
“This legislation was typical Labor overreach in favour of the unions instead of ordinary workers,” he said.
“This labour hire legislation went well beyond what even its own hand-picked inquiry chair recommended, and could lead to even the reputable labour hire firms being forced out of business through an enormous amount of red tape and uncertainty.
“We all want to protect vulnerable workers, but piling burdens onto labour hire firms, and therefore employers like local farms, will only cost jobs.
“It also opened up the opportunity for a union to shut down any firm that doesn’t play by the union’s game by objecting to licence renewals.”
Shadow industrial relations minister Robert Clark said what the government was proposing was an “ill-considered, ideologically motivated bill which will hurt more workers than it will help”.
“Daniel Andrews’ bill will undermine key Victorian industries, destroy jobs and livelihoods, and open the way for blackmail and corruption by dodgy and self-serving union officials,” he said.
“It’s a reintroduction of industrial relations laws by stealth into Victoria that will deliver huge power to unions.
“Victorian Labor is paying off its paymasters, the unions.
“These are not just the concerns of the opposition.
“They are concerns of reputable employer organisations.
“The Victorian Chamber of Commerce and Industry have made clear their concern about, and opposition to, this legislation, and the Australian Industry Group also opposes the bill and considers that it presents a severe and punitive overreach across all industries, beyond what is commonly understood as labour hire.”