Union targets labour hire companies
by Bob Briton The Australian Manufacturing Workers' Union (AMWU) announced a 2003 national campaign to the improve wages and conditions of the labour hire workforce. "For too long labour hire workers have been treated as the poor cousins of the industry", said AMWU National Organising Unit Co-ordinator, John Short. "As a union, we are committed to working with labour hire workers to maximise their negotiating power, and providing them with the skills and resources they need to establish proper terms and conditions of employment", Mr Short said. Labour hire workers, many of them casual, are forced to put up with unacceptable terms and conditions of employment simply because they need the work. They are denied the right to sick leave, annual leave and other entitlements, and can be dismissed without notice. "Everybody should be able to stand up for their rights", Mr Short said. The problem is that when labour hire workers stand up for their rights, the next day they get a phone call saying "we don't need you anymore". "Employers have been getting away with far too much for far too long. We are determined to set new standards in a sector of the industry that deserves better", said Mr Short. The AMWU is also concerned about disputes that arise over who is responsible — the labour hire firm or the host employer — for a worker in the case of unfair dismissal or issues of health and safety. The AMWU highlights one case where labour hire workers were laid off by a firm that makes equipment to treat sleep disorders. The union claims the workers were contracted for a year until they were laid off last month. When the union pushed for the workers to be made permanent employees they were dismissed. The union warned labour hire firms, "We will be out there, exposing the exploitation and bringing shonky operators to book."