Reaction to Fair Work Act inquiry positive

Analysis

Reaction to Fair Work Act inquiry positive

The reaction to the details about the Fair Work Act inquiry from all IR parties has been generally positive, but the hoped-for results predicably vary.

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The reaction to the details about the Fair Work Act 2009 inquiry from all IR parties has been generally positive, but the hoped-for results predicably vary.

For details on the inquiry’s terms of reference, etc, see: McCallum on panel for review of Fair Work Act

ACTU
 
Next year’s review of the Fair Work Act must not become a forum for employer grandstanding, and unions will take a strong interest to ensure the voices of working Australians are heard and that their rights are strengthened, said the ACTU.

ACTU secretary Jeff Lawrence said unions would actively participate in upcoming review, which would serve an important role in dispelling employer-generated myths about the Fair Work Act.

He said the review of the Fair Work Act will be among a number of important issues on the table for unions as they focused on improving workers’ rights at work into the new year, including through the modern award review and the ACTU’s ongoing Secure Jobs. Better Future campaign.

Federal Opposition
 
The government’s belated announcement of the Fair Work Act review leaves out the vital ingredients of productivity and flexibility, according to the Shadow Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations Senator Eric Abetz.

‘The reviewing body appears to be skewed but at the end of the day the proof will be in their review,’ Senator Abetz said today.

‘The review’s terms of reference seem similarly skewed without any reference to productivity, the plight of small business and the need for genuine flexibility. The terms of reference studiously avoid the increase in industrial disputation and decrease in productivity as shown by the Government’s own figures.’

ACCI
 
The review of fair work laws announced today by the Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations, Bill Shorten, is welcomed, and should be taken seriously by industry and business organisations, said Peter Anderson, chief executive of Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

‘It’s a good step, it’s a necessary step. But reviews are a means to an end, and the end must be political will to make necessary changes otherwise business confidence will be eroded.’

‘On the face of it, the review is to be conducted independently, transparently and with workable albeit limited terms of reference. Minister Shorten’s stated intent to a balanced IR framework and recognition that it should review the experience of small business as well as larger corporates is sound, and industry should reciprocate that good faith.’

‘It’s vital that the review assesses real world impacts of the IR system, and not just legal clauses and legal cases. If labour relations is to contribute to a better economy it needs a review of policy and practice, not just law.’


Australian Industry Group
 
In commenting on the Fair Work Act Review, Australian Industry Group chief executive Heather Ridout said:
‘This is a most important review and employers are looking for real outcomes that will support the competiveness of their businesses over the next few years in what promise to be volatile and difficult economic times. Indeed, consistent with this challenge, the test of the Review will be the extent to which its outcomes support increased productivity and flexibility, reduce red tape and improve competitiveness.
 
The panel members, Dr John Edwards, the Hon Michael Moore and Professor Ron McCallum AO, have an onerous responsibility presiding over the Review at a time when Australia’s competitiveness is declining and, integrally, productivity is flat-lining.
 
Importantly, the Review should focus on the precarious nature of global economic circumstances, the immense structural pressures facing non-mining trade-exposed businesses (the big employing sectors) and the barriers in the Act which are inhibiting businesses from making the necessary changes to remain competitive. The Review should be about changes for today that will help companies deal with the very real challenges of the next five years.’
Resource industry
 
AMMA chief executive Steve Knott has welcomed the details of the Federal Government’s Fair Work Act review, saying it presents a ‘great opportunity to ensure Australia has effective and productive workplace laws’.

‘With a Coalition that appears to have no policy on industrial relations, we believe Minister Shorten’s extensive understanding of workplaces and industry could potentially be the resource sector’s best chance to address the more practical problems under the Fair Work laws,’ Knott said.

‘One of the resource industry’s more immediate concerns is how the Fair Work laws continue to allow the current monopoly unions have in making agreements for new projects. This has resulted in excessive cost blow-outs and delays on major projects, with employers experiencing wage increases of 40 per cent in the last 12 months.’

Greens
 
Greens MP and workplace relations spokesperson Adam Bandt has welcomed Minister Shorten’s announcement of the make up of the Fair Work Act review but warned the Greens would oppose any attempts by big business to water down protection for workers.

Bandt also said the review should look at how the right to request flexible working hours could be extended to all workers, not just parents with small children. Ensuring the flexibility agenda is extended to workers’ hours should be a central part of this review.

Media comment
 
The word ‘productivity’ didn’t make it into Bill Shorten’s press review of the Fair Work Act, or into the terms of reference, according to Alan Kohler of the BusinessSpectator:
‘There is no one from business on the panel and nothing in the terms of reference about asking businesses whether the Act is working for them.

It is, in short, a whitewash — the review you have when you don’t want to have a review. What’s more, the new minister for workplace relations and former union leader went one step further than the old principle of never announcing an inquiry unless you already know the result: he actually laid out the result in the press release.

It is that the Act “works well”. He said: “The Fair Work Act underlines a balanced system for good workplace relations — one that promotes national economic prosperity and social inclusion for all Australians. Real economic prosperity and growth requires fairness and security in the workplace.” There you have it Messrs Moore, McCallum and Edwards, work backwards from that.’
 
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