LABOR’S WIN FOR WORKERS - VULNERABLE WORKER LEGISLATION
05 Sep 2017
Today Labor successfully ensured sufficient protections for workers were a central part of the Government’s otherwise deficient Vulnerable Workers legislation.
Labor’s amendments, which passed the Senate, are a win for vulnerable workers.
Labor supports the Fair Work Ombudsman (FWO) having all the necessary tools to investigate exploitation of vulnerable workers. That's why we support the FWO being granted coercive questioning powers - but only for investigations into underpayment and exploitation of vulnerable workers, and only with proper oversight. Our amendment ensures this.
The Government attempted to extend the coercive powers beyond investigations into the underpayment of wages and entitlements, going much further than they publicly asserted it would when they introduced it.
During debate on our amendments, Senator Cash let the cat out of the bag and revealed that the Government wanted the FWO to be able to use these coercive powers against workers and their unions. This government just cannot be trusted.
This overreach has come to be expected and subverts the ostensible goal of this Bill. Labor has ensured the Turnbull Government cannot use this Bill, which is supposedly aimed at stopping worker exploitation, to actually deploy powers to interrogate workers.
Labor also passed an amendment to reverse the onus of proof in claims for unpaid wages where the employer has not produced wage slips or employment records. If an employer does not make, keep or provide payslips, and the employee makes a claim that they have been underpaid, it is the employer who has to prove that they have paid the employee correctly. This removes the incentive for dodgy employers not to provide payslips.
This Government has been under immense pressure to avoid their obligations as a good government and act to stop workers being ripped off.
Former Liberal Minister Bruce Billson has been influential behind the scenes with lobbying efforts to dilute the Bill.
In a capitulation to the Franchise Council of Australia, the Government turned a blind eye to worker exploitation by supporting Senator Leyonhjelm and Bernardi’s amendment to water down the test of liability for franchisors.
When it comes to combating worker exploitation, this Government has failed time and time again, making it more than obvious protecting vulnerable workers is not on their priority list.
In the absence of leadership from this Government, federal Labor will continue to lead the way to stamp out underpayment and exploitation.