LABOUR hire arrangements are a legitimate way to engage workers in the resource industry and any recommendations for additional regulation must be justified by a proper evidence base and cost-benefit analysis, AMMA has urged a Victorian inquiry into labour hire and insecure work.

Announced in September by the Victorian Minister for Industrial Relations, Natalie Hutchins, the inquiry was launched to ‘investigate the practices of labour hire companies, insecure work, sham contracting and the abuse of visas to avoid workplace laws and undermine minimum employment standards’.

Chairing the inquiry, RMIT University Professor Anthony Forsyth wrote in an opinion piece for The Conversation this month that recent media exposés of worker exploitation by labour hire operators has put the issue under increased focus.

“The labour hire sector is of particular interest as this is a major industry in Victoria and nationally, with around 6,000 operators employing up to half a million workers. It also generates almost $20 billion a year in revenue,” Professor Forsyth wrote.

AMMA told the inquiry that many AMMA members operating across the resource industry and broader supply chain utilise labour hire arrangements in both the construction of a project and during its operation.

“This has been a longstanding feature of the resource industry and is recognised as a legitimate mode of engaging skilled workers to manage and operate various resource sector projects and operations across Australia, including within Victoria,” AMMA’s submission states.

“While there will no doubt be individual allegations of concern raised before this inquiry, it is important that the inquiry proceed upon the basis of a robust evidence base prior to formulating any possible policy recommendations which may impact sectors more broadly, such as the resource industry.

“AMMA would be concerned if recommendations are formulated that impose additional and unwarranted costs, legal obligations or restrictions across the board in response to isolated complaints raised by individuals within particular companies and confined to particular sub-sectors of the Victorian economy.”

Addressing the inquiry’s focus on insecure work, AMMA highlighted that the term was largely subjective and has been misused by the trade union movement to further industrial and political campaigns.

“It is regrettable that a large portion of this inquiry is devoted to a concept which is not clearly defined and is open to contention particularly when those who use it to further their industrial objectives describe various forms of work within the Australian labour market as ‘insecure work’,” the submission states.

AMMA’s recommended the inquiry:

  • issue a draft report for comment prior to its final report to the government;
  • form findings or recommendations from a proper evidence base;
  • consider how to better promote legitimate and lawful arrangements already in place; and
  • consider the existing regulatory burden on employers, existing legal protections and justify additional regulatory measure by a cost-benefit analysis.

Click here to read AMMA’s submission.

Click here for more information on the inquiry.