Can't just 'swap' AWAs for contracts, says ACCI

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Can't just 'swap' AWAs for contracts, says ACCI

Employers cannot be reasonably expected to transfer high wages paid under AWAs into common law contracts if they do not provide the same flexibility, the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (ACCI) says.

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Employers cannot be reasonably expected to transfer high wages paid under AWAs into common law contracts if they do not provide the same flexibility, the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (ACCI) says.

Peter Anderson, ACCI Director of Workplace Policy, said it was the flexibilities and efficiencies in work practices that the AWA permitted and which were the trade off for the higher wages.

He said Dun & Bradstreet's latest National Business Expectations Survey found that the one dark cloud amongst an optimistic business outlook was 'the level of uncertainty that still hangs over the whole industrial relations issue'.

Plan to abolish AWAs adds to uncertainty

'The Federal ALP's proposals to abolish AWAs add to that uncertainty,' Anderson said.

He said the Federal ALP claims that common law agreements are an acceptable substitute for AWAs is fudging the issue and creates more confusion.

'Common law contracts are not the same as AWAs and they do not permit the same workplace flexibility,' Anderson said. 'Without AWAs, a common law agreement would have to include every employment regulation set out in economy wide legislation, and in industry wide arbitrated awards, and in applicable collective bargaining agreements.

Recipe for reduced wages

'And because AWAs on average provide much higher wages than awards then it could also be a recipe for reduced wages.

'Employers cannot be reasonably expected to simply transfer high wages paid under AWAs into common law contracts if those common law contracts take away the flexibilities and efficiencies in work practices that the AWA permitted and which were the trade off for the higher wages.'

Anderson said that if the AWA system is abolished, the extent of workplace flexibility in Australia is put almost wholly in the hands of collective bargaining, unions, and arbitration tribunals.

Economic risk

'This is a retrograde position, rooted in union ideology, and an unnecessary economic risk,' he said. 'Employers are seeking a less ideological, more practical outcome - one where both collective and individual bargaining are recognised in legislation, within the framework of a safety net.'

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