Mind Your Language!

What a pity that the Labour Hire Licensing Bill 2017, which was introduced to Queensland Parliament today, advances core definitions that seem to be inconsistent with the ILO’s foundational principle that “labour is not a commodity”*.

The definitions of provider and labour hire services, which are set out in clause 7 of the Bill, run:

A person (a provider) provides labour hire services if, in the course of carrying on a business, the person supplies, to another person, a worker to do work.

Language matters. We reflect and construct meaning from the words we use.

It is disappointing, therefore, to see the extent to which proprietary language seems to have carried over as a legacy into a contemporary field of recruitment.

Language such as “candidate ownership”, “assignment”, “labour supply chains”, and “delivering or supplying workers” – even where used by enlightened human resources and procurement practitioners – hark back to a darker past and a flawed appreciation of the ILO’s foundational principle that “labour is not a commodity”.

It is more disappointing still to see such language promoted in this Bill.

The Bill provides an opportunity to set a new course in the way in which we describe important work relationships. However, it is early days and perhaps it is still not too late for the Queensland Parliament to seize it.

I’m hoping that it does!



Andrew C. Wood


*  The Declaration of Philadelphia (1944) 

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