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80% of labour hire firms breaking workplace laws

Labour hire firms in the spotlight. Image: Getty

Around 80 per cent of labour hire firms are not paying workers correctly, according to a new audit from the building watchdog. 

The Australian Building and Construction Commission (ABCC) has recovered $563,680 for 1,337 employees following a major audit. 

The audit of 63 labour hire employers in the building sector found only 21 per cent were upholding all of their workplace payment regulations. Most employers fell short when it came to keeping proper records, providing pay slips and paying workers correctly. 

Wage underpayment was the largest problem, with 64 per cent short-changing workers. 

“The precarious nature of labour hire employment means workers are less likely to speak up about their working conditions,” commissioner Stephen McBurney said. 

“The employers that we audited participated willingly and agreed to rectify any anomalies the ABCC discovered and changed their systems to ensure they comply with Australia’s workplace laws.”

The ABCC said labour hire generally operates in a triangular arrangement which sees labour hire firms supply workers to employers for agreed fees. And while this allows a “flexible approach” to the engagement of labour, the high level of non-compliance in the building sector is “disappointing”. 

“Employers that profit from a business model designed to relieve others of their lawful obligations should be beyond reproach,” the audit report read. 

Most of the underpayments were triggered by employers not paying minimum shift lengths, commuting and meal allowances or updating wages to meet the award rate, one underpayment was $19,000. 

The ABCC said all firms caught doing the wrong thing had made the required back payments.

“The employers that we audited participated willingly and agreed to rectify any anomalies the ABCC discovered and changed their systems to ensure they comply with Australia’s workplace laws,” McBurney said.  

‘Shitzu’: Union slams findings

Construction, Forestry, Mining, Maritime and Energy Union (CFMMEU) national construction secretary David Noonan blasted the findings and the ABCC’s response as a “cover up”, noting that no labour hire businesses were penalised. 

“The ABCC has revealed 80 per cent of construction labour hire companies are stealing wages from their workers. 

So how many companies did they prosecute? Not one,” he said. 

“Morrison’s ‘watchdog’ is a pit bull against workers & unions. And a shitzu when it comes to wage thieves.”

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