In cases of wage theft, who investigates the OHS issues?

In August 2017, the ABC Four Corners program reported on the dysfunctional glass recycling industry. Following this various media looked at the issue and in September of that year, one recycler, Polytrade, allowed some media into their worksite. The focus was on the “recycling crisis” and occupational health and safety (OHS) did not get a look in but two years on and OHS is now mentioned, but perhaps not as prominently as it could be.

On October 5 2019, The Age newspaper reported on accusations by the Australian Workers Union that workers at Polytrade were underpaid around $40,000 each year. There are many elements to this story such as migrant workers, “wage theft”, which have tapped into topical issues of several years, but the health and safety of the workers has received much less attention.

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Better jobs should also be safer jobs

The impending election in Australia has started to generate various position statements and discussion papers from various lobbyists. The Australian Industry Group (AiGroup) and the Business Council of Australia (BCA) are the latest of these.

The AiGroup released its Productive and Fair Workplace Relations statement in late March 2019. Surprisingly there is no mention of occupational health and safety (OHS) even though its contribution to a productive workforce is well established. Its omission is doubly surprising given the political stink in some States about the introduction of Industrial Manslaughter laws.

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Labour Hire licencing scheme to be rolled out in Victoria

Labour Hire Authority Commissioner, Steve Dargavel,

Labour Hire is almost always seen in purely commercial terms of salaries, business costs, production rates, labour availability, migrant workers, and more. Occupational health and safety (OHS) is often seen as an add-on, a term that is included in a media story because it should be, not because the author has really thought about it or sees OHS as legitimate.

Australian States are beginning to introduce certification/regulations schemes for the Labour Hire industry as a result of the exposure of workplace abuses in this labour supply process. Not all States though. Queensland has one that has been running a year or so, Victoria’s is open for registration applications at the end of April 2019 and full operation before the end of 2019; South Australia began its system, but an election changed the political priorities and that scheme is in limbo. The other States are unclear on their preferences, but it is clear that there will be no national labour hire scheme.

Victoria’s Labour Hire Authority (LHA) Commissioner, Steve Dargavel, has just started his roadshow for explaining what the regulations are all about, how to apply, what it will mean and what it will cost. Importantly OHS and workers’ compensation are integral parts of the scheme and therefore part of what the LHA Inspectors will be looking at and enforcing.

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Queensland enforces its labour hire laws while Victoria is still working theirs out

Sunset over Lockyer Valley, in South East Queensland, Australia.

The Queensland government was the first Australian State to introduce a licencing scheme for the providers of contract workers and temporary labour.  As a result, enforcement activity by the regulator there will likely set the scene for similar actions in other States particularly as Victoria has opened it public consultation on its labour hire regulations. Sadly workplace health and safety seems to have been overlooked in Victoria’s draft labour hire regulations and current consultation process.

Last week the Queensland Government

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