Govt defends Fair Work Act Review response

Analysis

Govt defends Fair Work Act Review response

There is the misconception that the recent drop in productivity is due to workplace laws, according to the Parliamentary Secretary for School Education and Workplace Relations, Senator Jacinta Collins.

WantToReadMore

Get unlimited access to all of our content.

There is the misconception that the recent drop in productivity is due to workplace laws, according to the Parliamentary Secretary for School Education and Workplace Relations, Senator Jacinta Collins.

Collins was speaking at Australian Industry Group National Personnel and IR Group Conference this week.
She noted:
‘The Reserve Bank recently concluded that the main reason for slowing productivity was due to a significant drop in the productivity of mining and over-investment in utilities by the states.

The RBA estimates those factors account for 70 per cent of the overall decline.

This is an important finding and illustrates that in the vast majority of this country workplaces are running productively.

With these factors in mind the [Review] Panel concluded that the Fair Work legislation is operating as intended and in accordance with the objectives of the legislation.

They also provided us with some good suggestions on how to get it operating even better.

The Panel made 53 recommendations to improve the operation of the legislation while maintaining fairness in the workplace, but didn’t support the need for wholesale change.’
Government response to the Fair Work Act Review
 
Collins defended the government’s response to the Review saying:
‘Since the release of the Fair Work Act Review Report on 2 August this year, Minister Shorten has consulted a large number of stakeholders — including employer organisations and small business representatives.

The Government announced its initial response to recommendations of the Fair Work Act Review last week.

The proposed approach was welcomed by the National Workplace Relations Consultative Council when they met in Melbourne.

The Minister acknowledged the value of the discussions leading up to the Government’s response.

He said that from those discussions, it was clear that there is broad support for around one third of the Review’s 53 recommendations; while it is also clear there are different views on the remaining recommendations.

The Government decided to proceed with amendments to the Fair Work Act that had broad support.

However we will continue to consult with stakeholders, including the Australian Industry Group, on the remaining recommendations.

It is certainly not the case that certain recommendations were vetoed by the unions.

Changes for immediate implementation include recommendations covering unfair dismissal and structural arrangements for Fair Work Australia.

We have heard from business that the unfair dismissal provisions of the Fair Work Act are a concern.

We believe that the Act strikes the right balance between allowing employers to manage underperformance and protecting good employees from unfair dismissal.

While the Government believes the unfair dismissal system is working very well, we accept the proposition that we need to provide certainty for small and medium sized businesses.

That is why we are aligning time frames for unfair dismissal and dismissal-related general protections claims at 21 days.

We are also making some changes relating to Fair Work Australia’s ability to dismiss applications and award costs.

These changes will help clean up some of the vexatious behaviour we have seen at the margins.

The Government will introduce these amendments to Parliament this year.’
Productivity
 
The most recent figures from DEEWR show that more than 16,000 enterprise agreements covering more than 2.2 million employees have been approved under the Fair Work Act 2009 according to Collins.

She noted:
  • Enterprise agreements made under the Fair Work system also continue to include a range of provisions to improve productivity in the workplace.
  • As at 30 June 2012, more than 48 per cent of agreements include a commitment to improve productivity.
‘There is no doubt these provisions have gone some way to stabilising productivity outside of the mining sector,’ said Collins.
 
‘Almost 95 per cent of agreements provide for the flexible engagement of employees, and more than 72 per cent provide flexibility in hours of work.’

Training and development
 
‘And it’s good news that businesses and organisations continue to invest in training and staff development … Almost 90 per cent of agreements contain provisions relating to training,’ added Collins.

Centre for Workplace Leadership
 
Collins pointed out that the government also announced the establishment of a new $12 million Centre for Workplace Leadership.
 
‘Ensuring that Australian jobs and workplaces of the future continue to lift productivity is a key priority for the Government.’

‘We can do this by boosting workplace leadership capability,’ said Collins.
 
Post details