Is FW system worse, or just in transition? Evans and Abetz trade blows


Is FW system worse, or just in transition? Evans and Abetz trade blows

The Opposition says a recent survey shows the Fair Work system is ‘neither simpler nor fairer’, while the government says it is just going through a ‘transitional’ phase.


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The Opposition says a recent survey shows the Fair Work system is ‘neither simpler nor fairer’, while the government says it is just going through a ‘transitional’ phase.
Their comments follow the release last week of the results of a survey by the Australian Human Resources Institute (AHRI).
The survey found that one-half of HR managers say the Fair Work Act 2009 has made their jobs more difficult, and one in four is finding it more difficult to make jobs redundant.
The survey found that almost one-third of HR managers find it harder to settle disputes in FWA and one-quarter report an increased level of industrial disputes.
As well, the third parties, such as FWA, unions and legal advisers are now having significant roles in bargaining and dispute resolution.
However, most expected the problems to have significantly lessened in a year’s time.
Shadow IR spokesman Eric Abetz said the survey ‘shows senior workplace practitioners have experienced enormous implementation difficulties and costs associated with the new system’.
More difficult
He said the survey of 1000 senior workplace practitioners found that 74% report an increased need for legal advice since the Fair Work Act 2009, while 57% report that the Act has made their job more difficult.
‘If senior workplace practitioners report increased difficulty and an increased need for legal advice, what about the average small business, which doesn’t have immediate access to such advice?’ he said.
Abetz said there was a need for the government to provide small business with more advice and protection under the new system.
‘Alarmingly, 37% of survey respondents believe the new Fair Work Act will decrease the willingness of organisations to employ people over the next three years, while 53% believe it will have a negative impact on productivity growth over the same period,’ he said.
Abetz said that, 53% of senior workplace practitioners reported that it now costs more to deal with industrial relations issues, 30% reported it is now more difficult to deal with disputes, while 23% reported an increased level of industrial disputes.
Working well
However, IR Minister Chris Evans said the survey showed Labor’s new unfair dismissal protections are working well.
He said 83% of those surveyed did not believe the new provisions had any negative impact on job creation.
‘The survey also found 45% of human resources managers reported no change or reduced complexity for employment arrangements under the new Fair Work Act,’ Evans said.
‘The reality is the Fair Work Act is simpler, fairer and less expensive.’
‘It is not surprising the survey reflects the fact that many organisations are in a transitional period as they come to terms with the new legislation.’
Evans said the Liberal Party had attempted to misrepresent the survey findings in a bid to undermine the Fair Work Act and pave the way for a return to WorkChoices.
‘It is ludicrous to suggest there are substantive issues with the legislation because HR professionals are experiencing a transitional period following the most significant reforms of workplace laws in more than 100 years,’ he said.
‘Overwhelmingly employers and employees are getting on with the business of bargaining under the Fair Work Act. More than 3,300 new agreements covering nearly 500,000 employees have been made under the Fair Work Act this year.’
‘By and large employers and employees are doing the right thing when negotiating for a new agreement. There have only been 18 good faith bargaining orders issued in the past year — representing around one order for every 400 agreements lodged during that time.’
Downwards trend
Evans said industrial disputation has continued its long-term, downwards trend, with just 2.5 working days lost per thousand for the June quarter 2010, down from 3 working days per thousand employees in the March quarter, 2010.
‘All major indicators show the Fair Work Act is working well. If Abetz was up front he would declare his party’s desire to return to WorkChoices and strip basic entitlements from Australians,’ he said.
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