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Government delivers stronger protections for vulnerable workers

The Turnbull Government’s legislation to protect vulnerable workers has tonight passed the Senate (4/9/17).

Minister for Employment, Michaelia Cash, said that the Government’s Fair Work Amendment (Protecting Vulnerable Workers) Bill 2017 delivers on a significant election commitment.

“This Bill builds on the Coalition Government’s record of protecting workers from unscrupulous employers” Minister Cash said.

“The Coalition Government has taken a strong approach to tackling allegations of fraud and exploitation in Australian workplaces.”

“Our Bill not only supports vulnerable workers, but also ensures businesses are operating on a level playing field.”

The Bill strengthens protections, including:

  • introducing a higher scale of penalties (up to 10 times the current amount) for a new category of ‘serious contraventions’ of prescribed workplace laws
  • expressly prohibiting employers from unreasonably requiring employees to make payments (ie ‘cash-back’ arrangements)
  • strengthening the evidence gathering powers of the Fair Work Ombudsman (FWO) to ensure that the exploitation of vulnerable workers can be properly investigated and
  • Introducing stronger provisions to make franchisors and holding companies responsible for breaches of the Fair Work Act in certain circumstances where they are culpable for the breaches.

“The strengthened penalties contained in this Bill will act as a significant deterrent to unlawful practices.  They will also ensure that the small minority of unscrupulous operators think twice before ripping off workers,” Minister Cash said.

“The FWO’s new powers and the franchising provisions will be vital in tackling worker exploitation, in important cases like that of 7-Eleven.”

The passage of the Protecting Vulnerable Workers Bill builds on a number of important Coalition initiatives to address exploitation in the workplace. These include;

  • $20 million in additional funding for the FWO
  • The establishment of the Migrant Workers Taskforce Chaired by Professor Allan Fels AO
  • The establishment of Taskforce Cadena, led by the Department of Immigration and Border Protection and the Fair Work Ombudsman
  • Requiring a valid pay slip as proof of work before a second working holiday visa can be granted and strengthening compliance arrangements for employers
  • Legislation to prohibit charging for a visa outcome
  • Reforms to the Student Visa program to provide greater discretion for decision makers to investigate applicants’ financial capacity to support themselves while studying in Australia.
  • Despite all of Labor’s rhetoric – they did nothing to protect vulnerable workers whilst in Government for six years. In fact, they did quite the opposite.

When Bill Shorten was the relevant Minister he stripped the Fair Work Ombudsman’s funding by 17% from $150 million to $126 million. He also slashed the FWOs staff by 20%.

Labor also voted against the second reading of the Government’s Bill in the Senate.

Yet again Labor by their actions show that they do not care about vulnerable workers they only care about powerful union bosses.

Employers and employees seeking assistance with workplace concerns can visit or contact the Fair Work Infoline on 13 13 94.