Growers called to respond to labour hire licensing updates
MADEC is reminding growers that they need to be prepared for labour hire licensing in Queensland and Victoria as seasonal harvest work for autumn crops ramp up.
Labour hire licensing has been operating in Queensland since July 2018 and will be introduced in Victoria in April 2019. Meanwhile South Australia introduced labour hire legislation in 2018, but consequently moved to repeal it.
Queensland’s labour hire licensing scheme has been operating for more than six months.
With autumn crop harvesting starting, MADEC’s Manager of the Harvest Trail, Gavin Krake, is urging growers to check the Queensland labour hire licensing website to ensure the provider they intend to use is either licensed, or has made an application prior to 15 June 2018 (these applications appear in green in the applications list).
“Some labour hire providers supplying pickers for the strawberry industry have had their applications withdrawn, which means they are unlicensed and cannot be used,” said Mr Krake. “It is an offence for growers to enter into an arrangement with an unlicensed labour hire provider or avoidance arrangements.”
The offences and associated penalties for entering into an arrangement with a provider who does not hold a licence to provide labour hire services are very steep, with corporations liable for fines of up to nearly $400,000 and individuals $135,000. There are also jail provisions.
Since Queensland’s labour hire licensing scheme started in April one licence has been suspended, one cancelled and 3000 granted. More than 300 audits of licence holders or applicants have been carried out.
MADEC is a licensed labour hire provider in Queensland and manages the national Harvest Trail website and call centre – a government funded program that operates at no charge to growers.
“Queensland growers having trouble finding a licensed operator can contact the Harvest Trail call centre and talk to our team about their labour hire needs and we can refer suitable workers to them,” added Mr Krake.
Applications for Victorian labour hire licences will commence on 29 April 2019 and businesses who provide labour hire services in Victoria will have six months from that date to apply for a licence or risk a penalty under the scheme.
“While the specific commencement date is new information, the introduction of a labour hire licensing scheme in Victoria in the first half of 2019 has been imminent since the passing of legislation to support it in mid-2018,” said Mr Krake.
“Similar to the scheme in place in Queensland, labour hire operators in Victoria will be required to pass a fit and proper person test, show compliance with workplace laws, labour hire laws and minimum accommodation standards, as well as report annually on their activities.”
Information sessions will be held in Melbourne and regional Victoria between March and April.
The regulations provide information on issues such as the role of the Labour Hire Authority and Commissioner, inspection and enforcement penalties, review processes, licence costs and interstate licence recognition. The regulations will be effective from 29 April.
“Once the scheme commences on 29 April, providers will have six months to lodge an application for a licence,” said Krake. “We’re suggesting growers talk to their current labour hire providers now to help prompt them to start their licensing process.”
South Australia’s state government has introduced legislation to repeal the state’s Labour Hire Licensing Act 2017 and currently no labour hire licensing is required or proposed.
“MADEC recognises the need to ensure workers get paid and treated fairly and in accordance with the law,” said Mr Krake. “In states like South Australia where labour hire licensing is not established, we encourage growers to check their providers themselves to ensure the providers are paying and treating people employed to work on growers’ farms and businesses correctly.”
The Harvest Trail website and call centre (1800 062 332) is available for workers looking for seasonal farm jobs to help them connect directly with growers.
Gavin Krake, Manager – National Harvest Labour Information Service, MADEC