SA Unions slam child worker law

Child labour dispute

By Cara Jenkin

Unions in South Australia have branded draft laws to protect young workers against exploitation and harm at work as "weak", lacking in detail and failing to immediately protect child employees.

The SA State Government this week released its draft Child Employment Bill for workers aged under 18, but exactly how they will be protected remains unclear.

The Bill, more than two years in formation, is a broad framework which refers to yet-to-be-released codes of practice about how children will be protected from long hours, unsafe duties and exploitation.

It says it will protect children in paid as well as unpaid, voluntary and charity work and working in family businesses. Children who are carers or collectors or are doing house chores are exempt.

The Bill also prevents children from undertaking work that interferes with their schooling.

SA Unions secretary Janet Giles described the Bill as "quite weak".

She was pleased the Government had moved to create the legislation but it did not reveal much detail nor provide immediate protection. "(Protection) relies on a code of practice being developed," she said.

"In our experience, children are the most exploited workers in the workforce." She said SA Unions wanted a maximum number of hours young staff could work during a school week to be legislated, as well as the time of day.

University of Adelaide Professor of Law Andrew Stewart expected the protection would be outlined in the codes of practice the Industrial Relations Minister would hand down after the legislation was passed.

"There is a framework here for what could be very bare bones or what could be very detailed legislation," he said.

South Australia and Tasmania are the only states without child-labour laws.

A spokesman for Industrial Relations Minister Paul Holloway said the Bill was open for public comment until November 19.

Article from The Advertiser, November 3, 2010.

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