ACCI calls for delay on new IR laws

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ACCI calls for delay on new IR laws

A major employer organisation has called for the Federal Government’s new IR laws to be delayed by six months because of extra costs and new rules that are unfair to business.

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A major employer organisation has called for the Federal Government’s new IR laws to be delayed by six months because of extra costs and new rules that are unfair to business.
 
Peter Anderson, chief executive of the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (ACCI) told a Senate inquiry into the transitional legislation that the legislation should begin on 1 January 2010 — as originally intended — not 1 July this year.
 
The NES and modern awards are due to begin on 1 January, and ACCI wants the rest of the legislation to start at the same time. The replacement body for the ABCC is due to begin on 1 February 2010.
 
Added complexity
 
‘Bringing forward by six months the commencement of many parts of the new laws to July, as the government proposes, adds to complexity and puts extra weight on the economy at a time of recession,’ Anderson said.
 
‘It’s not sensible from a jobs point of view, and starting in two hits just makes things more complex for small business.’
 
Anderson told the Senate Committee inquiring into the Transitional Bill that that some of the government’s rules governing the introduction of its Fair Work IR system were not fair, and introduced avoidable new costs and red tape — beyond what the new IR laws themselves will bring.
 
Three key changes
 
ACCI suggested changes in three key areas:
  1. To stop existing agreements with unions or employees being retrospectively varied by new wages or employment conditions.
  2. To legislate the Deputy Prime Minister’s guarantee to employers and small business that new employment rules in awards will not add to employer costs — a promise set to be broken in industries like retail, tourism and hospitality.
  3. To allow union representation orders to be made before demarcation disputes arise, and to avoid re-negotiating near completed bargaining processes or completed contracts for the transfer of a business.
In its submission ACCI said the Transitional Bill is far more than technical.
 
‘Its application will represent the first interaction for many employers with the Forward with Fairness system,’ ACCI said.
 
‘It is essential that it introduces fair and workable provisions for employers who must, by 1 July 2009, understand and put in place arrangements to transition into the Fair Work Act 2009 (FW Act).'
 
Minimise disruption
 
‘The overall objective of the transition needs to minimise disruption or dislocation to business as a consequence of system change.'
 
‘Unfortunately, the Bill is not just a standard transitional and consequential piece of legislation. It is a substantial, complex, detailed and large (spanning just under 300 pages) Bill.'
 
‘It simultaneously repeals the current Workplace Relations (WR Act), continues the ongoing operation of certain provisions of the WR Act, and creates a separate Act for organisations. It affects material outcomes and obligations in Australian workplaces.’
 
2288 pages of detail
 
ACCI said the IR system now requires employers and their representatives to be across the detail of over 2288 pages of regulation that covers the WR Act, associated regulations, FW Act and the Transition Bill.
 
‘Many issues of complication and concern identified by ACCI in this submission would not occur if the new industrial relations system took effect on and from 1 January 2010, as originally indicated by the government,’ ACCI said.
 
‘We maintain the view that this should be the case, both from an operational and technical perspective, and also a policy perspective.'
 
ACCI said the Bill imposes additional costs and regulatory burdens on employers and there are concerns that there has not been a cost–benefit analysis of these increased costs.
 
Increased costs
 
Some of these direct on-costs and challenges to employers include:
  • increased wage rates under a modern award applying to all existing agreements from 1 January 2010
  • new employment standards applying to all existing agreements from 1 January 2010, when some of those agreements may have provided for additional compensation to cover similar entitlements under the no-disadvantage test.
  • additional time and resources to restart the bargaining process for agreements that have been substantially completed before 1 July 2009.
  • additional costs for outsourcing arrangements, where the contractual arrangements were settled before 1 July 2009, but the staff start after that time.
 
No time to comprehend
 
ACCI said it found itself with a short amount of time to comprehend and digest the implications of the new system.
 
‘There will be complications down the track no doubt, despite our earnest effort to identify most provisions that require moderation or amendment,’ ACCI said.
 
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