Urgent reform needed on IR laws, say business


Urgent reform needed on IR laws, say business

Two major employer organisations have welcomed the reopening of debate into Australia’s IR system, saying it is in need of urgent reform.


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Two major employer organisations have welcomed the reopening of debate into Australia’s IR system, saying it is in need of urgent reform.

However, the Greens also want to enter the debate and push for more radical changes.

ACCI chief executive Peter Anderson told the ABC this week that he welcomed the commitment by Opposition Leader Tony Abbott to changes in the workplace relations system.

Abbott has said last year that the impetus for any changes would have to come from the business community.

Anderson said he was interested in the fact ‘that industrial relations has passed the lips of the Opposition Leader and I’m also very keen to ensure that there is a sensible and practical discussion from both sides of the politics because our labour market is not standing still and we have got some important deficiencies in the current framework that need to be addressed’.

‘After three rounds of national arbitration, we’ve only now got an opportunity for young people to be employed in after school work in shops,’ he said.

‘We’ve seen tribunals come down with decisions that allow unions to go on strike before they undertake bargaining.’

‘And this week, we’ve also seen a situation where trade union officials have effectively masqueraded as bargaining agents to get into industries where they don’t have any legal coverage.’

Practical problems
‘Now, these are the type of practical problems that need to be resolved because the Government said, when it put these laws in place two years ago, that that they would strike the balance fairly.’

‘What’s clear is that the system is not operating on these issues the way the Government said it would.’

‘Our political leaders on both the Government side and the Opposition need to be prepared to engage in a sensible debate about improving our industrial relations system.’

Ai Group chief executive Heather Ridout said that two years on from the implementation of the Fair Work Act ‘there is an increasingly strong view that amendments are vital if we are to avoid economic risk down the track’.

‘Ai Group has not called for amendments lightly or as a first recourse and we are not seeking large scale reform of the system,’ she said.

Not working as intended
‘However, we have identified areas where the Act is not working as intended and where amendments are essential.’

‘We have identified significant problems with the Act and areas where amendments are needed including the transfer of business and general protections laws and some aspects of the bargaining laws which have proven to be problematic.’

‘As well, the laws need to be amended to outlaw union bargaining claims to restrict the engagement of contractors and labour hire as well as providing a more workable structure for individual flexibility arrangements.’

‘Amendments to the Act are essential to improve Australia’s competitiveness and productivity performance.’

Working hours
Greens IR spokesman Adam Bandt said that if the Coalition opens up a debate on industrial relations reform, the Greens will be pushing to remove the remnants of the Coalition’s WorkChoices laws, not bring them back.
He said the Greens would want to change the Fair Work Act to give people greater control of their working hours and remove the restrictions on employees’ right to bargain that contravene international law.
The Minister for Workplace Relations, Senator Evans, has said that there will be a review of the Act to be conducted at the start of next year.
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