Industrial disputes worse under FW Act: Ai Group


Industrial disputes worse under FW Act: Ai Group

Workplaces have become less flexible and industrial disputes have increased markedly since the Fair Work Act was implemented, the Australian Industry Group has told the review into the legislation.


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Workplaces have become less flexible and industrial disputes have increased markedly since the Fair Work Act 2009 was implemented, the Australian Industry Group (Ai Group) has told the review into the legislation.
In its submission, Ai Group said the Act needs to be much better aligned with the need for flexibility and productivity.
Among the matters Ai Group wants addressed as amendments to the Act are:
  • industrial action to be a last resort
  • restrictions on ‘permitted matters’ for bargaining
  • reintroduction of individual work agreements
  • abolition of ‘scope’ orders.
Included with the submission are the results of a survey of Ai Group members which found that the Act is not delivering productivity or flexibility improvements and, in fact, over 80% of those who reported less flexibility blamed the Fair Work Act.
‘The unions are calling for more restrictions upon employers, wider arbitration powers for Fair Work Australia and more union powers,’ said chief executive Heather Ridout.
‘The experiences of many European nations which have implemented overly restrictive and unaffordable employment conditions highlight the hazards involved in taking this path.’
‘Unions have too much power’ 
‘It is vital that these claims are rejected. The unions already have far too much power under the Act.’
Ridout said that in many ways the Fair Work bargaining laws have taken Australia ‘a long way backwards’.
‘They are less flexible and unions have much more power in the bargaining process than the laws implemented by the Keating Government in 1993–94 when enterprise bargaining was first introduced into the federal workplace relations legislation,’ she said.
‘For example, nowadays unions can bargain and take industrial action over a much wider set of claims and the Tribunal has wide powers to make orders during the bargaining process.’
Some of the key amendments recommended by Ai Group are:
  • The ‘permitted matters’ for enterprise agreements need to be defined in accordance with the High Court’s decision in the Electrolux case, and agreements must not be able to include any other terms.
  • A voluntary bargaining system.
  • Secret ballots should be required to determine majority support, both employer and employee bargaining representatives should be permitted to apply for a determination, and employers should be permitted to re-test the support of the employees for a collective agreement after protracted bargaining.
  • The list of areas in the Act which cannot be the subject of an FWA bargaining order should be expanded.
  • Scope orders should be abolished. The scope of an enterprise agreement is a matter to be bargained over, not a matter to be imposed on the bargaining parties.
  • The term genuinely trying to reach an agreement, which operates as a pre-condition to the taking of industrial action, should be defined to ensure that industrial action is a last resort.
  • A union should only be covered by an enterprise agreement if the agreement, as voted upon and approved by the majority of employees, specifies that the union is covered by the agreement.
  • Enterprise agreements between an employer and an individual employee should be allowed.
Other submissions
In other submissions to the Review:
  • COSBOA wants a separate system designed for small business.
  • Civil Contractors Federation wants to be able to hire subcontractors at lower than the site rate for permanent employees.


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