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Investigations launched into north Queensland’s labour hire sector

Posted December 07, 2015 11:09:02

Authorities have launched a series of investigations in north Queensland into the labour hire business with some organizations accused of exploiting seasonal workers across the fruit and vegetable sector.

Former police officer turned Liberal National Celebration MP Dale Final mentioned his workplace has received dozens of complaints this year but so far, only a handful of fines had been issued by authorities.

We’ve had some instances where they have put 30-40 individuals into one particular residence in appalling conditions and at the end of the day, that’s not on.

Dale Last, Queensland MP

“Early on in the season, we became conscious that a quantity of unscrupulous labour hire organizations have been operating throughout the Bowen and Burdekin areas, underpaying workers, coming in with illegal immigrants and utilizing them as workers,” Mr Last said.

He said authorities have been also locating it tough to police overcrowded share houses, where labour employ contractors rent a house and cram it with workers, making a profit.

“We’ve had some situations where they have put 30 to 40 men and women into one home in appalling circumstances and at the finish of the day, that’s not on,” he said.

ABC News found three residences in Baker Street, Bowen, with double the number of legal tenants emerging to go to work on the choosing fields for the day.

The real estate agent managing the homes said he was unaware of the situation and would investigate.

By law, agents have to give 24 hours’ notice ahead of inspecting a house, which can make it challenging to police, although Queensland Fire and Emergency Solutions has the power to conduct on-the-spot inspections.

Close to 20 people identified to be operating illegally on one farm

The Fair Perform Ombudsman has had teams of investigators in Bowen in recent months generating confident workers were being paid appropriately.

So far, officers have issued one particular $ 850 on-the-spot fine to a labour employ contractor in Bowen for failing to meet record-keeping obligations but will not reveal their name as investigations are ongoing.

The Ombudsman’s office said it had also secured back-pay for a quantity of workers in the region who had been not too long ago underpaid.

It is expected to provide a full report on the extent of the difficulty in Bowen early subsequent year.

The Division of Immigration and Border Protection has also been investigating the use of illegal seasonal workers in Bowen.

In September, 19 illegal workers were discovered operating on a single farm.

Regional Commander Terry Cost stated unscrupulous labour hire contractors ran the danger of facing challenging penalties.

“There is fairly stiff penalties an infringement is about $ three,000 for an individual or for corporate bodies that can be as significantly as $ 16,000 per illegal worker,” he said.

Transport authorities also worried about the security of the vans and buses utilized to transport workers.

During a 4-month operation, police located 11 unregistered vehicles and nearly 30 with security defects.

Final week, Queensland Minister for Industrial Relations Curtis Putt ordered a parliamentary inquiry into allegations of unethical practices by labour hire companies.

Those findings are anticipated to be handed down to Parliament by mid-2016.

Subjects: business-economics-and-finance, rural, farm-labour, bowen-4805

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