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Agricultural Labour Supplier Faces Potential Severe Penalties in Victoria

The Labour Hire Authority (LHA) in Victoria has begun legal proceedings against a labour hire company, Honey Bunny Global Pty Ltd, accusing it of subcontracting farm labourers through unlicensed suppliers. This is part of an ongoing rigorous effort to tackle malpractices in the horticulture and farming sectors.

The LHA alleges that Honey Bunny Global subcontracted work to seven unauthorised labour suppliers. The company’s director, Surawadee Tanchote, is also under scrutiny for allegedly being consciously involved in this contravention.

If the charges hold, the implications could be severe. The company may face a maximum penalty of over $590,000, while the individual penalty could reach up to $145,000. These are the most stringent financial sanctions under the Labour Hire Licensing Act of the State.

The LHA emphasizes that the Act stipulates the same maximum penalties for businesses providing unlicensed labour hire services or those engaging another company for the provision of such services.

Steve Dargavel, the Labour Hire Licensing Commissioner, has issued a stern warning to all businesses contemplating unlawful activities through subcontracting. He references a recent case that saw the court levy fines nearing half a million dollars, reiterating the LHA’s robust capabilities to detect and take legal action against such practices.

In recent times, the LHA has undertaken a series of enforcement and compliance measures within Victoria’s horticulture industry. One such example is a civil case last year, wherein the Victorian Supreme Court penalized a former labour hire company and its director a total of $483,428.

The court ruling discovered that Nico Keat acted as the director of Amatak Labour Services Pty Ltd when it applied for a labour hire license in August 2019. His conviction and subsequent sentencing in September 2020 for drug trafficking, while his company’s application was still under review, led to its ultimate rejection. The LHA cautioned that offering labour hire services without a current license could attract substantial financial penalties.

The Supreme Court discovered that another company, UNG Services Pty Ltd, obtained registration in February 2020, with Keat eventually assuming the roles of sole director, secretary, and shareholder.

Earlier this year, the LHA lodged its inaugural case against a business for allegedly providing unlicensed on-hire fruit and vegetable pickers. This move is part of a more extensive compliance and enforcement program initiated by the Authority. The program targets “significant harms” to workers in high-risk industries, including horticulture, meat and poultry processing, commercial cleaning, and security.

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