A new plan for the
registration of labour hire firms, designed to stop exploitation of foreign
workers by unscrupulous companies, has been laid out by peak vegetable industry
body AUSVEG.

Under the proposed scheme, labour hire firms would need to seek approval from
the Departments of Employment and Immigration, the Australian Taxation Office,
and the workplace safety body in their state before gaining accreditation as an
approved firm and being placed on a public register.

“Access to labour continues to be a pressing issue for Australian growers, and
backpackers on temporary work visas play a vital role in the horticultural
sector during peak seasonal periods,” said AUSVEG Deputy CEO Andrew White.

”Unfortunately, we continue to see high-profile cases of unconscionable
behaviour by unscrupulous labour hire firms who exploit and abuse their
contracted workers. This clearly shows that there needs to be greater oversight
of the labour hire industry.”

AUSVEG is the leading horticultural body representing more than 9,000
Australian vegetable and potato growers.

“The current lack of regulation means that even if a company is identified as
exploiting or abusing workers, they can vanish and begin again under another
name quickly and easily – what’s known as ‘phoenix activity’,” said Mr White.

“By making a positive register for labour hire firms that have proven their
compliance with Australian immigration, taxation and industrial relations law,
the Federal Government will be able to prevent this behaviour and help clean up
a sector rife with misconduct.”

AUSVEG’s proposal also includes regular inspection or auditing by the
Government to prove a company’s continuing compliance with the standards
required to be an accredited firm.

Farmers and workers will be encouraged to use the register to ensure that
labour hire firms who act in compliance with Australian law are rewarded for
their behaviour.

“As well as the human cost of this exploitation and abuse of workers, the
conduct of these rogue firms is damaging Australia’s reputation among both
travellers and overseas workers,” said Mr White.

“With horticulture relying so heavily on labour hire firms who source
backpackers for their contracts, we’re looking to work with the Australian
Government on decisive action that can protect workers and make sure
unconscionable operators don’t damage Australian industry.”  

White, AUSVEG Deputy CEO
Phone: (03) 9882 0277, Mobile: 0409 989 575, Email: andrew.white@ausveg.com.au