Employers want new IR laws to be ‘business friendly’

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Employers want new IR laws to be ‘business friendly’

A major employer organisation has ‘accepted’ that new AWAs will no longer be part of the Federal Government IR legislation and is attempting to amend the current interim legislation before Parliament to make it more ‘business friendly’.

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A major employer organisation has ‘accepted’ that new AWAs will no longer be part of the Federal Government IR legislation and is attempting to amend the current interim legislation before Parliament to make it more ‘business friendly’.

Australian Business Industrial (ABI), the registered industrial relations affiliate of the NSW Business Chamber, said in a submission to the Senate Inquiry investigating the legislation that it would focus its attention on the practical aspects of workplace agreement making.

‘Governments are much more able to elevate social objectives against those of efficiency, service and profitability, and to tolerate less than optimal economic performance than is the private sector,’ the submission says. ‘Without profitability in the private sector businesses die and the economy stalls.’

The submission says ABI supports the right of employers and employees to negotiate terms and conditions of employment on an individual or collective basis, and the right of individual enterprises to seek the best mix for themselves. Moreover, it is important to avoid an outbreak of inflexibility when the new system comes into effect.

Flexibility in the system

‘In the absence of specific individual agreements providing access to different working arrangements, the system itself will need to allow greater flexibility than is currently the case without imposing additional costs,’ it says.

‘Hence, it is important that the proposed National Employment Standards do not operate to impose new inflexibilities, particularly on working arrangements in traditionally award-free areas or areas of unusual award regulation.'

‘Also, it is important that modern awards do not become a vehicle for imposing new inflexibilities or restrictions on the options of working patterns for employees and businesses.’

Recommendations

Among the recommendations ABI makes are:

Negotiated outcomes should not form the basis of a no-disadvantage test (NDT): The submission argues that relevant collective agreements should not be used as a reference instrument for the purpose of assessing ITEAs under the NDT because they have ‘negotiated outcomes’ which would distort the assessment.

The Australian Fair Pay and Conditions Standard should be included in the NDT: The submission says that while the Standard cannot be reduced or removed through the bargaining process and would operate alongside the ITEA or collective agreement, it ‘does not seem able to form part of the assessment process’ to see whether the agreement passes the NDT.

It says this could result in a lack of ‘clarity’ and perhaps the ‘problematic’ operation of the NDT. It says excluding the Standard raises operational questions of what an agreement’s wage rates are to be assessed against.

Commercially sensitive information: It is proposed in the legislation that the Workplace Authority Director must publish the reasons if an agreement is taken to pass the NDT.

ABI says the publication of such reasons should only be to the extent that commercially sensitive information is not made public.

If agreement does not pass NDT: ABI says that where a collective agreement is initially found not to pass the NDT, the employer may lodge a binding undertaking to rectify the agreement, rather than being compelled to undertake a full variation process.

Operation date of agreements: ABI says all agreements, but particularly collective agreements, should be allowed to operate from lodgement or such later date specified in the agreement, and have the NDT conducted retrospectively.

Termination of a collective agreement by the Commission: The submission says that for an organisation of employees (i.e. a union) to be able to apply to have a collective agreement terminated by the Commission, it must have at least one member subject to the agreement.

Unfair dismissals: ABI wants terms conferring rights or remedies in the event of an unfair dismissal excluded from the forthcoming ‘modernised’ awards.

Pay scales: The submission wants the Government to give serious consideration to the need for publicly available conclusive, or effectively conclusive, pay scales as they apply during the period until new pay rates are issued by Fair Work Australia including, if necessary, the need to make legislative amendments.


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