Productivity vs job security: FW review submissions


Productivity vs job security: FW review submissions

Employers are pressing their case for productivity to be a driving element in any changes to the Fair Work system, while unions are asserting job security as the main thrust for any change.


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Employers are pressing their case for productivity to be a driving element in any changes to the Fair Work system, while unions are asserting job security as the main thrust for any change.

The submissions of the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry and the ACTU split on predicable lines in their respective submissions to the Fair Work legislation review currently being conducted.

ACCI: Need for meaningful changes
Peter Anderson, chief executive of the ACCI, has called for a significant suite of changes to national workplace regulation in order to support fairness, productivity and competitiveness.

The changes proposed by ACCI are across twelve areas of the fair work system, and are outlined in an extensive submission lodged today with the Gillard Government’s three-member Fair Work Act Review Panel.

‘On fairness, as well and productivity and competitiveness grounds these changes are absolutely necessary for small and large businesses alike, and the broader economy,’ said ACCI chief executive Peter Anderson.

Major areas of change proposed by ACCI are:
  1. limiting trade union claims triggering mandatory bargaining and the right to strike to wage and condition matters only, not matters of business management
  2. a requirement for agreements to be tested against productivity and competitiveness criteria
  3. limiting the right to strike to a last-resort option after bargaining failure
  4. a merit-based revision of modern awards to tailor hours and penalty rate structures to contemporary trading conditions
  5. making individual flexibility agreements accessible and workable
  6. making greenfield agreements available to non unionised projects
  7. paring back speculative litigation rights against ‘adverse action’ by employers
  8. preventing trade union officials having greater immunity from workplace change than the broader workforce
  9. tightening unfair dismissal laws
  10. confining union right of entry to workplaces where unions have members or employees seek union assistance
  11. a review of penalties and their application, especially in small business
  12. a wage-superannuation trade off, should the mandatory superannuation levy rise from 9% to 12%.
‘The business community, including its peak councils, is at one on the core issues requiring workplace reform,’ said Anderson.

ACCI’s submission

ACTU: Australians laws that provide secure jobs 
Any further changes to workplace laws should improve job security, rights and protections for the millions of people in insecure work, not hand more power to employers, according to the ACTU.

In its submission to the review of the Fair Work Act, the ACTU will propose reforms within the framework of the existing legislation to improve the rights to collective bargaining and the safety net for insecure workers.

The ACTU will release its submission today (20 February), along with research that shows ‘its proposals are in tune with the majority of Australians and that the campaign by employer groups against workers is dramatically out of touch with public sentiment’.

The survey of more than 2000 people found that 57% believe any new workplace laws should aim to give employees more reliable work. Just 14% said new laws were needed to give businesses greater flexibility in how they employ people.

Even among Liberal voters, twice as many were in favour of laws to help workers as supported laws that suited employers (49% to 24%).

‘There is no public mood to hand over increased power to employers, but more importantly, there is no credible evidence or rationale in the way the Fair Work Act is operating to justify this either,’ said ACTU secretary Jeff Lawrence.

‘Our submission will clearly demonstrate that contrary to the myths being perpetrated by employers, the Fair Work Act has been irrefutably good for workers and good for the economy.’

‘The facts show that a record number of collective agreements are being made, industrial disputes are down, the economy is growing at a steady pace, unemployment and inflation are low, and wage growth is solid and sustainable. Profits are close to all-time record highs, while wages’ share of national income is at a 40-year low, so business has nothing to complain about.’

‘In the last couple of days, we have seen former Liberal Premier Jeff Kennett articulate the employer-Liberal agenda with a call to abolish penalty rates. This would result in a significant reduction in the take-home pay of workers in the hospitality, retail and service sectors. We’re talking about people on $17 an hour who rely on penalty rates as a significant part of their income.’

‘The future of Australia’s workplace system is in collective bargaining and a co-operative approach; slash-and-burn, bully boy tactics like those of Qantas need to be stopped.’

‘If any changes are needed to the Fair Work Act, they should start with strengthening the bargaining system, with an activist role for Fair Work Australia where employers only pay lip service to the notion of collective bargaining and never have any intention of reaching agreement.’

‘The protections and entitlements of the 40% of Australians in insecure jobs as casuals, contractors or labour hire workers must be improved, and workers should have the right to bargain about job security. Secure jobs that pay decent wages and have workplace rights can be built on our economic strengths.’

Lawrence said unions shared the goal of lifting Australia’s rate of productivity growth, but warned that giving more power to employers to fire workers or cut pay and conditions would not lead to better productivity.

‘Productivity improvements come from the high road of greater levels of trust and co-operation between workers and employers, and from investment in skills, technology, infrastructure and innovation,’ Lawrence said.

Details of survey
The ACTU commissioned Qdos Research to investigate attitudes to work and workplace laws in Australia. A total of 2004 people took part in the online survey. They were asked:

Taking into account the good reasons from both sides would you like to see decision makers in Australia enact new laws with:
  1. A greater emphasis on giving employers more flexibility in the way they employ people
  2. A greater emphasis on giving employees more reliable work
  3. Leave it as it currently is
  4. Don’t know


Detailed results are available from the ACTU Media releases webpage.

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