The Labour Hire Authority (LHA) is following up information identified during recent visits to farms and worker accommodation in Mildura indicating non-compliance with providers’ legal obligations relating to minimum accommodation standards and worker entitlements.
Inspectors from the LHA visited nine farms and nine worker accommodation premises last month to confirm that labour hire providers were licensed and compliant with their legal obligations under the Labour Hire Licensing Act 2018 (the Act). Inspectors interviewed 13 workers, eight farmers, four providers and three accommodation proprietors. They also requested relevant records held by the farmers and providers.
As a result of these visits, the LHA notified the Mildura Rural City Council of a number of possible unregistered rooming houses operating in Mildura.
At one house, which appeared to be linked to a labour hire provider, inspectors observed several concerning issues indicating non-compliance with minimum accommodation standards, including:
- a significant fire safety risk with a modified camp stove in the kitchen powered by two stacked gas bottles adjacent to an open flame, noting a strong smell of gas in the house
- indications of overcrowding and potential unauthorised building works, with shared living spaces modified to create bedrooms, and
- unhygienic conditions throughout the premises.
The LHA is following up on indications of non-compliance with other legal obligations including recent amendments to piecework requirements under the Horticulture Award 2020, and alleged failures to withhold tax, pay superannuation entitlements and provide payslips.
In addition, the LHA is investigating alleged unlicensed subcontractors identified during these inspections.
Providers and hosts must understand and comply with their legal obligations
While speaking with farmers and providers during compliance inspections, the LHA provided education about recent amendments to legal obligations, including:
- the introduction of a minimum hourly wage guarantee in the Horticulture Award 2020 and a requirement to record hours worked by pieceworkers, and
- changes to the Occupational Health and Safety and Other Legislation Amendment Act 2021 which give labour hire workers the same rights and protections at their host employer’s workplace as employees of the host.
The LHA urges providers and hosts to ensure they understand and comply with their legal obligations. Failure to do so may result in penalties.