More protection for vulnerable workers

Tuesday, 28 February 2017

Member for Hinkler Keith Pitt has welcomed new legislation which will provide greater protection for workers in Hinkler, with increased penalties for employers who underpay workers and those who intentionally exploit workers.

The Fair Work Amendment (Protecting Vulnerable Workers) Bill 2017 was introduced into Parliament today.

“The higher penalties and increased powers of the Fair Work Ombudsman should give a clear message to employers: if you are doing the wrong thing you will be caught, it won’t be tolerated and you will be punished to the fullest extent.

“This legislation delivers on the Coalition Government’s election commitment to increase safe-guards for vulnerable workers,” Mr Pitt said.

The amendment will:

  • Introduce a higher scale of penalties for ‘serious contraventions’ of prescribed workplace laws

  • Increase penalties for record-keeping failures.

  • Make franchisors and holding companies responsible for underpayments by their franchisees or subsidiaries where they knew or ought reasonably to have known of the contraventions and failed to take reasonable steps to prevent them.

  • Expressly prohibiting employers from unreasonably requiring their employees to make payments

  • Strengthening the evidence-gathering powers of the Fair Work Ombudsman to ensure that the exploitation of vulnerable workers can be effectively investigated.

Mr Pitt said clamping down on unscrupulous employers will level the playing field for producers who employ legal workers.

“Dodgy contractors not only employ and under-pay illegal workers, they reduce employment opportunities for those who do have permission to work in Australia.

“Sadly, this issue is not confined to the horticulture sector or the Bundaberg region. Unfortunately it happens in many regional and metropolitan areas also.

“I’ve campaigned long and hard against worker exploitation and this legislation will ensure that workers are protected.”

The Migrant Workers Taskforce – which was also announced during the election campaign – is headed by Professor Allan Fels AO and will build on the work being done by Taskforce Cadena, Mr Pitt said.

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