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Coalition and Labor moving on worker exploitation, but potential loopholes remain

Tess Hardy writes in The Conversation (20.5.16) about the federal government’s and opposition’s positions on protecting workers from exploitation by employers. This follows recent revelations of workers enduring below-standard job conditions or below-award wages in a variety of industries.

‘Both the Coalition and Labor have now pitched their proposals on how to better tackle worker exploitation in this country. While neither party’s policy is perfect, strengthening laws in this area is a big win for workers, no matter who ultimately wins government.

‘The Coalition’s policy, much like Labor’s policy, recognises the need to enhance the enforcement provisions of the Fair Work Act. Both parties have now also promised to bolster the powers and resources of the Fair Work Ombudsman. These proposals represent important steps in the right direction, but some lingering loopholes remain.

‘For instance, the Coalition, in contrast to Labor’s current position, proposes to extend liability to franchisors and parent companies for contraventions committed by their franchisees and subsidiaries respectively. This is crucial because it provides the regulator with the power to strategically target those firms which may be driving employers to act unlawfully. However, it is not without some weak spots.’

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