Pushing for IR law changes

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Pushing for IR law changes

A major employer body has called on the Senate to amend the Government’s IR Bill because it will cost jobs and is being introduced at the worst possible time. Meanwhile Nationals Senate Leader Senator Barnaby Joyce wants the cut off level for unfair dismissals to be raised to somewhere between 20 and 50 employees – Labor’s current IR Bill before Parliament sets it at 15.

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A major employer body has called on the Senate to amend the Government’s IR Bill because it will cost jobs and is being introduced at the worst possible time. Meanwhile Nationals Senate Leader Senator Barnaby Joyce wants the cut off level for unfair dismissals to be raised to somewhere between 20 and 50 employees — Labor’s current IR Bill before Parliament sets it at 15.
 
IR Bill ‘bad law at the worst of times’: ACCI
 
A major employer body has called on the Senate to amend the Government’s IR Bill because it will cost jobs and is being introduced at the worst possible time.
 
Peter Anderson, chief executive of the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (ACCI) said at a press conference yesterday that employers expected the Senate to ‘moderate’ the legislation.
 
‘The laws would impose far too many regulatory obligations on employers; they impose some business costs which are excessive and they increase compulsory arbitration and trade union powers to too great a degree,’ he said.
 
‘The business community accepts that there is a case for some changes to Australia’s industrial relations laws but we do not believe that the government has got the balance right.’
 
Moderate the proposals
 
‘As a consequence of that the Australian parliament must do what is responsible to do and that is to examine these proposals and moderate them so that we have a fair industrial relations system, one that works, not just for trade unions or for industrial tribunals, but one that works for Australia’s small businesses and their employees,’ he said.
 
Anderson said the level of arbitration powers by the new Fair Work Australia will be extreme and there is nothing in what the government is proposing by way of its own amendments which suggests that those arbitration powers are going to be moderated; in fact they may even be increased in the government’s original Bill.
 
‘That’s a real concern,’ he said.
 
Cost jobs
 
‘The legislation will certainly cost jobs in some industries and over a period of time.
 
‘It’s impact will differ across industries because its impacts are tailored or based around the way in which trade unions ultimately exercise the powers the legislation gives unions over bargaining in particular industries.
 
‘The combination of new trade union powers and new industrial relations tribunal arbitration powers will ultimately cost jobs in the Australian economy unless moderated. There’s no doubt about that.’
 
Worst of times
 
Anderson said the current economic climate is the worst of all times to be proposing a re-regulation of the Australian labour market.
 
‘Were it not for the debate about industrial relations before the last election I don’t believe that any government would be proposing this type of labour market re-regulation in Australia,’ he said.
 
Grave responsibility
 
‘No other industrialised nation in the world is going down the path at this time of introducing additional employment regulation into its economy.
 
‘Australia stands alone in that regard and that’s why the Australian parliament has a very grave responsibility to make sure that the laws that it is putting in place over the course of the next fortnight are laws which are not going to impose or worsen the burdens on the Australian employer community.’
 
Barnaby Joyce wants unfair dismissal limit raised
 
Meanwhile Nationals Senate Leader Senator Barnaby Joyce wants the cut off level for unfair dismissals to be raised to somewhere between 20 and 50 employees — Labor’s current IR Bill before Parliament sets it at 15.
 
Senator Joyce said both Labor and the Coalition believe that small business should be exempt from unfair dismissal laws ‘so let’s put aside that we don’t believe some sections of the economy need to be exempt’.
 
‘The debate is: what is the definition of a small business,’ he said.
 
‘I believe that a small business is defined not so much by numbers but by the relationship between the employee and the employer.
 
Owner and HR manager
 
‘National Party senators believe a small business is one where the employer is the owner and the human resources manager of that business. That same individual is also in a day-to-day visible engagement in the workplace with their employees.
 
‘Once you have an intermediary between the owner and the employees, such as a HR manager, then obviously that business has the mechanism to go through a more protracted form of dismissal if required. It is also a reality that at times dismissals happen. If only the world was perfect, but it is not.
 
‘It is understandable that if you have too obscure a definition of small business then you will spend your time in court arguing about whether the legislation has effect. For unfair dismissal, 100 full-time equivalents [the figure under WorkChoices] is too many, 15 too few.
 
ABS says 20
 
‘The Australian Bureau of Statistics says a small business has 20, the International Labour Organisation says 50. For this legislation I would suggest we closely investigate numbers between 20 and 50.’
 
Senator Joyce also raised the issue of unfair dismissal laws acting as a disincentive for employment.
 
‘The problem with numbers is this: if you say that a headcount of 15 workers means you are exempt from unfair dismissal laws and 16 means that you are in, then obviously there is a disincentive to employ worker number 16 as you will then be exposed for all workers in regard to unfair dismissal laws,’ he said.
 
Employment disincentive
 
‘A disincentive to employ people in the middle of a recession is a paradox if you want to keep people employed,’ he said.
 
‘There is unfortunately a trade-off between unfair dismissal laws and not even having the right to be dismissed because you never had a job.’
 
Senator Joyce did not indicate why a 16th employee was a problem when the cut off point was set at 15, but a 21st employee was not a problem if the cut off level is set at 20, as he suggests.
 
Libs want dismissal changes too
 
Opposition Leader Malcolm Turnbull also wants the 15 employee limit changed.
 
Turnbull said there is widespread concern that the figure of 15 employees is too low.
 
‘[They] are a significant discouragement for employers to take on new employees because they increase the risk to the employer if the employee does not work out,’ he said.
 
He said he would be seeking negotiations with crossbench senators over pushing for changes to the unfair dismissal provisions.
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