SA Labour Hire Industry changes

Proposed legislation changes to SA’s labour hire industry “would have a deleterious effect on business“, according to Schubert MP Stephan Knoll.

His opposing comment followed new legislation which sought to prevent labour hire companies from “flouting the law” by regulating hire company licences.

“At the moment, the reason the hire companies try to flout the law is that there is a financial incentive for them to do so,” he said.

The proposed changes fall under the Labor Party’s Labour Hire Licensing Bill 2017, which follows an inquiry led by the Economic and Finance Committee in 2015 into labour hire practices.

Last week, Mr Knoll said in parliament that the legislation would have “no positive effect on dealing with the issues at hand”.

Issues included mistreatment of workers by way of underpayment and breaches in workplace law and health and safety conditions – all of which Mr Knoll said was already an illegal practice.  

He and other industry associations such as the South Australian Wine Industry Association were keen “to make sure this illegal behaviour is brought to justice”.

SAWIA is a registered association of employers under the South Australian Fair Work Act 1994.

In a letter addressed to the Committee in 2015, SAWIA said there were already extensive protections under both state and federal harassment and discrimination legislation, “including employers having vicarious liability for any acts by their employees”.

“On this basis there is no need for additional legislation.”

Mr Knoll said he spoke with relevant compliance agencies including insurance protection agency for businesses, ReturnToWork SA.

“What they do essentially with these labour hire companies that seemingly rise up from the ashes and there are questions marks over whether or not they are going to properly pay their return-to-work premiums, is ask them to pay in advance,” Mr Knoll said.

“For ReturnToWork SA, there is a financial incentive because if they do their job properly, they will collect more work cover premiums.” 

Light MP Tony Piccolo said it was “unfortunate” that Mr Knoll had an ideological opposition to improving the security of workers’ pay and conditions.

Mr Piccolo believed the proposed laws would make it easier for relevant agencies to enforce the laws and achieve greater compliance at a lower cost to the taxpayer.

“Importantly, by creating a chain of responsibility it ensures that the workers are not exploited if a dispute arises between the labour hire firm and the employer,” he said.

“It beggars belief that Mr Knoll would oppose a law similar to what the federal Liberals have passed in parliament in relation to franchisors.

“While his opposition to the laws is tantamount to protecting the interests of shonky labour hire firms, legitimate labour hire firms and employers get undercut and are unable to compete fairly.”

The Bill, which has been passed in the Lower House, will be addressed in the Upper House during the parliament’s next sitting.

“I look forward to the Upper House doing its job of knocking off this piece of extremely dangerous legislation,” Mr Knoll said.