Govt won’t change Fair Work Act, says Evans

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Govt won’t change Fair Work Act, says Evans

The Federal Government has said it will resist calls by employers and unions to make changes to the Fair Work legislation.

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The Federal Government has said it will resist calls by employers and unions to make changes to the Fair Work legislation.
 
IR Minister Chris Evans said in a speech this week that the government has no intention of making changes to the workplace laws.
 
Last week the Australian Industry Group (Ai Group) called for major amendments, including secret ballots for majority support determinations, no restrictions on the hiring of contractors, and pattern bargaining issues to be determined at the industrial action secret ballot stage.
 
Ai Group chief executive Heather Ridout said the current legislation was ‘far from perfect’.
 
There have also been calls from unions to change the legislation, and in particular to abolish the ABCC.
 
Productivity gains
 
But Evans defended the Fair Work laws, saying the number of days lost to industrial action was falling, there was a record number of enterprise agreements and the laws allowed for ‘genuine productivity gains’.
 
‘The government has no intention of making major changes to this legislation,’ he said.
 
‘The Act has only been in operation since July 2009 and many of the provisions have not been utilised or fully explored.’
 
Evans said Labor had modernised awards and delivered net benefits to businesses.
 
‘Despite these tangible results, on an almost daily basis, I am confronted by media reports which typically feature a business organisation, an employer or a union blaming the Fair Work Act for their failure to achieve a desired outcome,’ he said.
 
Quick fix
 
‘These constant calls assume that there is a legislative quick fix for every problem encountered. But every time there is a call for change it is greeted by an equally strong opposing view.’
 
Evans said the enterprise bargaining framework at the heart of the system required parties ‘to act maturely, constructively and responsibly’.
 
‘The constant preoccupation with legislative quick fixes distracts from the real opportunities provided under the Fair Work system,’ he said.
 
Ridout, said there was a ‘very strong case’ to suggest the laws do not raise productivity.
 
‘No country can afford to freeze in time its workplace relations system — least of all a country like Australia with such an open economy,’ she said.
 
Unions ‘on guard’
 
ACTU secretary Jeff Lawrence said the Fair Work laws were a ‘major step forward from WorkChoices’ but his organisation would seek refinements. Unions ‘must be on guard against a new employer push to dismantle’ the laws.
 
‘Unions will continue to campaign for the abolition of the Australian Building and Construction Commission, to allow vulnerable and low-paid workers to benefit from collective bargaining, and to protect their members and delegates,’ he said.
 
Australian Mines and Metals Association chief executive Steve Knott said the ‘failings in the current workplace laws of today will inevitably be converted to the unemployment queues of tomorrow’.
 
‘The do-nothing approach as stated by Minister Evans is at best sub-optimal and at worst playing Russian roulette with future jobs,’ he said.
 
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