18 February 2019

In a chapter of Philosophical Foundations of Labour Law, Virginia Mantouvalou argues that the term “exploitation” needs a broader legal meaning than just slavery and servitude, and should also include taking advantage of workers’ vulnerability. She also calls for governments to be held accountable for “legislation that excludes or treats differently certain groups of workers, making them in this way especially vulnerable to exploitation. That the state has such a role in creating structural conditions of vulnerability to exploitation through law is deeply troubling, given that the employment relation is already a relationship of inequality and subordination.” In Australia, some of the legal structures that increase vulnerability in this way include visa work rules, junior wages, work for the dole and CDP, internships, au pair arrangements, labour hire, and ‘independent’ contracting. Some State governments have begun reviewing small aspects (such as labour hire licensing) but Mantouvalou’s call for a systematic review has merit.