Union welcomes Queensland govt procurement policy

State government’s crack-down on shoddy contractors welcomed by cleaners' union.

United Voice Queensland has thrown its support behind the state government’s new procurement policy that aims to crack-down on “shoddy contractors”and lift the standards of suppliers able to tender for government business.

The Buy Queensland Ethical Supplier Threshold and the Ethical Supplier Mandate, which took effect from this month, is in response to a parliamentary wage theft report.

From 1 August 2019, companies that fail to meet the threshold are automatically excluded from tendering for Queensland Government contracts.

United Voice Queensland President Sharron Caddie said the government’s revised procurement policy raises the bar so that companies seeking to tender for and undertake government business must meet a threshold of positive employment practices.

“The improved procurement policy goes a long way to address concerns from unions about rampant wage theft and poor industrial relations practices not creating a level playing field when it comes to government procurement.”

Caddie said the procurement policy marks a positive step toward stamping out sham contracting, wage theft, and paying below award rates through ‘zombie’ employment agreements, that many operators adopt as business models.

“All of these shoddy tactics were raised in the recent inquiry into wage theft in Queensland, which brought forward many of the issues our members face every day.

“However, we also know there are plenty of great operators out there doing the right thing by workers,” she said.

“It’s only fair that the good operators are rewarded for doing the right thing, and acting lawfully, by sharing in the government contract spend that’s worth billions of dollars annually.”

At the time of the announcement Housing and Public Works Minister Mick de Brenni said the Buy Queensland Ethical Supplier Threshold and the Ethical Supplier Mandate set sturdy standards suppliers will be expected to follow.

“Failing to pay award and penalty rates, engaging in sham contracting or dodgy labour hire, or wilfully ignoring other legal requirements is wage theft and something this government is determined to put an end to,” de Brenni said.

“The public reaction to the recent high-profile rip-offs in the hospitality sector show the community expects that all companies meet these basic conditions, and I think it’s even more so if they are supplying to government.”

Breaches of the threshold also include pretending employees are independent contractors when they’re not, and having unpaid interns when they should be paid employees.

“Queensland suppliers, industry representatives and unions have been very supportive of a rigorous framework that simply requires every company to meet basic standards.”

An additional measure, the Ethical Supplier Mandate, would be progressively rolled out, commencing with building and construction suppliers on 1 August 2019, transport infrastructure and services suppliers on 1 October 2019, with further categories in 2020.

Suppliers who fail to meet the criteria will accrue demerit points on a sliding scale from 2-10 for minor, moderate or major performance issues.

A 12-month suspension from doing business with the government may apply to those who accumulate 20 or more demerit points within a 12-month period, or who contravene the Ethical Supplier Threshold.

“This mandate holds under-performing suppliers to account and will see action taken if they do the wrong thing by their workers or Queensland taxpayers,” de Brenni said.

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