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Federal Opposition slammed over labour hire policy

Australian Resources and Energy Group AREEA has called out Opposition Leader Bill Shorten’s unsubstantiated claims about the labour hire industry as he announced a national licensing scheme would form part of the Labor Party’s workplace policies.

In a concerning preview of how the ACTU would likely influence Labor Party policy if it forms government at the next federal election, Mr Shorten last week declared labour hire providers would be subject to a “same job, same pay” policy which would see rates for labour hire employees legislated to the same for other employees on a job.

AREEA Chief Executive Steve Knott said Mr Shorten was using unsubstantiated claims and baseless accusations to push for excessive regulation and disincentives to high-paid labour hire arrangements.

AREEA Chief Executive Steve Knott

“With few exceptions, labour hire has been used responsibly in Australia for decades. Covering less than 2% of Australian workers, it forms a small but important component of the overall labour market in modern economies,” he said.

“Bill Shorten is effectively offering a pay cut for highly skilled workers, such as those in the resources and energy sector who are paid a premium for their specialist skills and temporary nature of project work.

“It’s clear that the true intention of the ALP’s policy is not ‘same job, same pay’, but to shut down labour hire arrangements at the behest of the ACTU.”

Mr Knott pointed out that labour hire employees are paid competitively, including additional loadings, and enjoy the full protections and procedural fairness available to other employees under the Fair Work Act.

However, Mr Shorten said Labor would legislate for workers employed through a labour hire company to receive the same pay and conditions as people employed directly.

“At the moment, there are too many workers in Australia subject to unfair labour hire practices, often treated like second class citizens with lower wages, worse conditions and no job security,” he claimed in a statement.

“For some workers labour hire and casual work is a pathway into a permanent job, but for too many workers it has become a way of life. For these workers it’s tough to pay the rent and the bills, let alone make longer-term decisions like taking out a car loan or buying their own home.

While there are workers who like the flexibility that labour hire provides, too often it’s used purely as a mechanism to pay workers less, or to deprive them of conditions and security.”

Minister for Small and Family Business, the Workplace and Deregulation Craig Laundy said thousands of labour hire workers could see their pay and conditions change constantly, every time they change assignments.

“Labour hire has been part of the Australian workforce since the 1950’s and it’s a legitimate form of employment that many workers prefer. It provides thousands of people a steady stream of work and the opportunity to earn a reliable income, while providing small businesses flexibility to meet changes in demand, like in seasonal industries.”

“ABS statistics show labour hire hasn’t been increasing – it’s been stable at less than 2 per cent of the workforce for over a decade and all of the protections of the Fair Work Act apply to labour hire workers as apply to other workers.

“However, militant unions want to destroy the industry – this is the latest example of unions controlling everything Bill Shorten says and does.”

Read AREEA’s full statement here where a number of very important facts are laid out, including labour hire employees having the same rights and protections as anyone else, how labour hire is essential for cyclical, project work in the resources sector, the well-recognised benefits for employees and why new regulation is unnecessary red tape and will impact business.

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