Labour Hire and Insecure Work

Recent media exposés of the exploitation of working people in Victoria’s labour hire industry have highlighted the insufficiency of current regulation and its inability to provide protection for Victorian workers.

The existing regulation, which predominately relates to the direct relationship between employers and employees, is inadequate for regulating the complicated triangular structure of labour hire. Labour hire agencies are undermining Australian working conditions through the increased use of precarious work arrangements such as casualisation and engaging workers under sham independent contract arrangements, as well as exploiting vulnerable temporary foreign workers. There is also a proliferation of labour hire firms avoiding paying employee entitlements and tax through phoenix activities.

Appalling stories of exploitation from people working under labour hire agencies in Victoria show that the negative consequences of labour hire and insecure work are real, disturbing and intolerably common.

Submissions from people who are faced with precarious work to the CFMEU, including through labour hire agencies, have consistently shown that they do not believe they are paid fairly, their workplaces are not always safe and that they cannot discuss pay or safety without risking their jobs. Workers’ stories told of the negative personal, financial and health impacts of a lack of predictability at work.

“If you spoke up they move on to the next bloke.”

“You worry everyday if you can pay rent.”

“If it wasn’t for them [the CFMEU] my children wouldn’t have even received Xmas presents and we wouldn’t have been able to even eat.”

“Casual work might suit SOME people, but 99% it doesn’t… [you have] extremely high stress levels due to the unknown for you and your family, which in turn creates low self-esteem, depression, anxiety and feelings of not being good enough to provide for your family.”

“[I have] no idea if I’m getting money at all week to week... It is not a privilege to have a job! I want to work, I want secure pay and conditions, why must I feel lucky if I can get that!!!!”

“If you even question health and safety, the builder you are on-site for will call you a trouble maker, phone your employer, and demand not to send you back to that job.”

“[I’m] always stressed because safety was ignored and men with my experience are told to shut up or get sacked."

Click below to read the full submission