Australian Opposition criticised for labour hire reform proposal

Labor Party plans to introduce new labour hire (temp) licensing regulations have been shot down by mining advocates as unfair to workers in the resources sector.

Opposition leader Bill Shorten has promised to introduce new legislation should his party win the next federal election, assuring labour hire workers the same pay and conditions as direct (permanent) employees.

Labour hire practices are common in the resources and energy industries due to the temporary and residual nature of mining project work, the cost- and time-saving benefits of outsourcing, and ability to efficiently scale projects up or down according to need.

The criticism of Labor opposition leader Bill Shorten’s comments, regarding the unfair treatment of labour hire workers, has come from the Minerals Council of Australia (MCA) and Australian Resources and Energy Group (AMMA).

The MCA referred to the plans as a “backwards step for employers and workers, inhibiting workplace flexibility and reducing job opportunities,” and that it would hurt regional small- and medium-sized businesses and contractors.

The AMMA statement went further, with chief executive officer Steve Knott accusing Labor of trying to shut down labour hire arrangements “at the behest of the ACTU [Australian Council of Trade Unions]”, the largest trade union in the country.

“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,” Knott said.

According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), around 5 per cent of the Australian workforce came from a labour hire agency in August 2016, with a predicted annual growth of 2.4 per cent per year.

“The assertion there is widespread exploitation in labour hire arrangements is simply wrong — numerous state inquiries found only a handful of cases across a small number of low-paying sectors,” according to the AMMA.

“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.”

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