The Labour Hire legislation “Labour Hire licensing Bill 2017” will impose huge costs on growers without actually protect vulnerable workers in the real world.
- The Labour Hire Licensing Bill 2017 has passed the Victorian Lower House. The VFF is lobbying to have the Bill defeated in the Upper House.
- The Bill proposes to require all persons providing labour hire services in or from Victoria to be licensed under a self-funding State scheme. The Bill includes many provisions which will simply further complicate Victoria’s agricultural labour crisis without protecting vulnerable workers.
- Exploitation of workers is already illegal with many civil and criminal laws in place to prosecute offenders. A licence will not stop unscrupulously behaviour, an holistic approach to the provision of labour with consistent enforcement of the current laws would be more effective.
The VFF Position
- The VFF Horticulture Group maintains its support for a National labour hire licensing system, with an independent audit system as part of a raft of measures to address the exploitation of workers.
- The VFF Horticulture Group maintains it concerns that a licence won't stop exploitation especially without other measures such as Federal Agriculture Visa an amnesty.
- The VFF Horticulture Group maintains its position that there are a significant number of laws and regulations already in place both at a State and Federal level. What is missing is a uniform approach to enforcement.
- What Australia needs is a national licensing system with a clear and transparent audit and enforcement process. A piecemeal approach across States simply increases inequity between growers in different states
- The scheme scheme fails to acknowledge or address the complexities of the issues. Without a more holistic approach to the broad range of reasons labour exploitation has occurred any scheme will fail to effect change and condemn the Horticulture industry in the process.
The Labour Hire legislation “Labour Hire licensing Bill 2017” must be defeated in the upper house.
Please support the VFF campaign for Upper House MPs to vote against the introduction of these unworkable, costly and superfluous laws.
Write to your local Upper House MP and to the crucial independent Upper House MPs
Mr Jeffrey Bourman - Jeff.firstname.lastname@example.org
Dr Rachel Carling-Jenkins - Rachel.email@example.com
Ms Fiona Patten - Fiona.firstname.lastname@example.org
Mr James Purcell - James.email@example.com
Mr Daniel Young - Daniel.firstname.lastname@example.org
A copy of the VFF Horticulture Labour Policy (2018) can be downloaded here.
Additional Information to support VFF concerns
- The report from the extensive Federal enquiry was released after the Bill had been released, therefore the Bill doesn’t take into consideration nor is it informed by the Federal enquiry recommended a number of important measures but did not support state based licencing schemes recognising it would not provide protection of vulnerable workers
- Rushing the legislation to vote during the peak horticultural seasonal period is disrespectful, it appears they are trying to push through the legislation without true industry consultation
- The definitions and regulation underpinning the legislation need to be discussed and clarified to determine the impact on farming businesses and to reduce the impact on businesses operating lawfully
- The funding mechanism and costs of the licence scheme will ultimately be paid by producers who are price takers who have not got the capacity to pass the costs on
- The fines are out of proportion
- The phase in period needs to be considerable to allow time for the establishment of enough licenced labour hire companies to serve the labour needs of Victorian horticultural producers
- There is a need to exempt labour hire companies that meet the stringent national requirements to be an “Approved employer”
- The broad and general definitions used in SA and Qld (and proposed in Victoria) have had a detrimental effect on many farm to farm labour sharing practices that are not associated with the concerns about exploitation of workers.
Background: The Labour Hire Licensing Bill 2017 Key Provisions
The Bill proposes to require all persons providing labour hire services in or from Victoria to be licensed. The Bill includes:
- An extended definition of labour hire services, to include placing workers to be employed by an employer where the provider also arranges accommodation, and placing independent contractors where the provider also manages the contract.
- Prohibitions on offering or using unlicensed labour hire services, with large civil penalties
- A Labour Hire Licensing Authority consisting of a single Commissioner appointed by Governor in Council, with inspectors and other staff which will all be paid for through licence fees (ie come out of growers pockets ultimately)
- Extensive information to be provided in all licensing applications, with the right of the Authority to require any further information the Authority requires
- Details of applicants to be made public, and any interested person entitled to object
- A licence is to be refused if the applicant is not a fit and proper person. A person is a fit and proper person unless they or a body corporate of which they were an officer has certain convictions or has had a labour hire licence cancelled, or has been insolvent or disqualified under the Corporations Act within various time periods
- Licences may be subject to any conditions determined by the Authority
- Licences are for three years and must then be renewed
- Fees to be specified by regulation are to be paid for applications (fee levels to be determined following an RIS process, and intended to be full cost recovery)
- Specified information must be provided annually and any changes to information provided must be notified within 30 days
- The Authority may vary licence conditions by notice to the licence holder
- Register of licence holders to be publicly available, as well as details of refused applicants and cancelled licences
- Rights of inspectors to enter premises, obtain documents, etc to ensure compliance with the legislation (and hence compliance with all other employment related laws with which a licence holder must comply)
- A right for licence applicants or objectors to seek review by VCAT of any licence-related decision by the Authority
- A right for the Authority to pass on information to any other relevant regulator
- Capacity for regulations to exempt from the definition of providing labour hire services any class of provider, type of services or class of worker, and to deem when a worker does work for a business or when a business is a host.