Employers put boot into Labor's IR agenda

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Employers put boot into Labor's IR agenda

The Federal Labor Party's basic industrial relations agenda has been comprehensively rejected by a major employer organisation.

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The Federal Labor Party's basic industrial relations agenda has been comprehensively rejected by a major employer organisation.

The Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (ACCI) and its State and Territory affiliates have written to Opposition Leader Kim Beazley and told him that his IR objectives are 'inimical to the very goals of productivity, innovation and small business you recently advocated for Labor in government'.

Generating disquiet

In a letter dated 12 September, ACCI told Beazley that his core policies have 'generated considerable disquiet amongst employers'.

The ACCI affiliates pointed specifically to Labor's intention to:

  • Abolish AWAs and any alternative form of statutory individual bargaining;
  • Create a new system of union rights in collective bargaining, including workplace representation by 'a single collective voice';
  • Re-impose unfair dismissal laws on small business;
  • Remove limits on the content of union agreements;
  • Impose new restrictions on the engagement of foreign workers;
  • Abolish the Australian Building and Construction Commission; and
  • Abolish the Office of Workplace Services.

'It is difficult to see how such policies can be conducive to Australian competitiveness, living standards or jobs,' ACCI wrote.

The affiliates said that while acknowledging the need for further dialogue and recognising the lack of detail at this stage, they 'unanimously expressed profound concern at the directions you have canvased'.

They asked Beazley to continue to formulate ALP policy 'with an open mind' and give greater regard to employers who take investment risks and create jobs.

Early dialogue

Beazley has not responded to the letter but ALP sources said he saw it as part of the early dialogue with business.

Former Labor Prime Minister Paul Keating last week labelled ACCI and its Chief Executive, Peter Hendy, a 'branch office' of the Liberal Party. Hendy was once Chief of Staff to former workplace minister Peter Reith.

However it is noteworthy that Hendy did not sign the ACCI letter to Beazley. Hendy denied yesterday the relationship with Labor was irreconcilable, and said good lines of communication existed.

But he said: 'We do have some fundamental disputes, especially on industrial relations issues.'

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