AN unlicensed labour hire company that provided workers to farms in Rosebud, Devon Meadows, Koo Wee Rup and Torquay has been issued a total penalty of $617,916 – the highest in Australian history for breaches of labour hire law.
A L Star Express, of Keysborough, was found to have knowingly and repeatedly contravened the Labour Hire Licensing Act 2018 (Vic) when it supplied workers to four separate horticulture businesses, without holding a labour hire licence.
The workers jobs included picking fruit and vegetables and other horticulture tasks.
In its judgement, the Supreme Court of Victoria noted that the contraventions “must be characterised as serious”, that the penalty “needs to be sufficiently high not to be the ‘price of doing business’”, and that licensing obligations could not be avoided by supplying workers through an intermediary business.
“I refer to the knowing and repeated nature of the contraventions, and the extent of the contraventions, namely over several months, and affecting at least sixteen workers,” the judgement stated.
As well as prosecuting alleged contraventions of the Act, the Labour Hire Authority, which led the prosecutions, can remove labour hire providers’ ability to operate in Victoria by refusing, suspending, or cancelling their licence.
Licensing commissioner Steve Dargavel said labour hire workers picking fruit and vegetables were among Victoria’s most vulnerable and it was critical that the companies employing them were appropriately vetted and licensed to operate.
“Dodgy labour hire providers who pay workers as little as $17 an hour have no place in our industry and will be held to account,” he said.
“Significant penalties also apply for engaging unlicensed labour hire providers, so Victorian businesses should always check the LHA website to ensure their provider holds a current licence.”