WA IR review shows need for ‘sensible’ changes to FW Act: ACCI

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WA IR review shows need for ‘sensible’ changes to FW Act: ACCI

ACCI has used the release of a review of WA’s IR system to call for changes to the Fair Work Act, saying that while a radical overhaul is not needed the current balance is ‘not right’.

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ACCI has used the release of a review of WA’s IR system to call for changes to the Fair Work Act 2009, saying that while a radical overhaul is not needed the current balance is ‘not right’.
 
Peter Anderson, ACCI chief executive, said the Amendola Review, which was released late last week, had found that aspects of the fair work system are not effective, and not recommended for adoption at a state level.
 
He called on the business community to use the ‘independent critique’ of aspects of the national fair work laws to add weight to calls for sensible changes to workplace regulation.
 
Anderson said the author of the review, barrister Steven Amendola, found other aspects of the Fair Work Act appropriate and worthy of recommendation.
 
Balance ‘not right’
 
‘Whether or not business agrees with every Amendola recommendation about workplace laws, this review suggests that while the fair work system does not require radical overhaul, there are important areas of policy and detail where the Gillard Government has not got the balance right,’ Anderson said.
 
‘Some of the criticisms made of the national fair work laws made by Amendola line up with the on-the-ground concerns recently identified by business organisations and employers in the first 18 months of the fair work system.’
 
Major findings
 
Major findings by Amendola are:
  • fair work bargaining rules have resulted in ‘the bureaucratisation of bargaining … it is very complex and layered and would cause anyone unfamiliar with industrial relations to reach for the nearest panadol’
  • the collective bargaining rules have resulted in ‘complex and dense regulation’
  • individual employer-employee agreements with a no disadvantage test should co-exist with collective agreements
  • unions are currently ‘severely limiting’ the scope for individual tailoring of working arrangements in collective bargaining
  • agreements and strikes should be limited to disputes over employment matters
  • union workplace entry should be limited to access requests from union members and not extend union officials the general investigative powers that are reserved to government inspectors
  • previous case law developed by the courts about employment conditions on the transfer of business are preferred to the fair work laws
  • fair work laws should have a small business exemption from unfair dismissal laws, or a longer qualifying period before claims can be made
  • the 6-month compensation limit for unfair dismissals in the fair work laws should be reduced to 3 or 4 months to reduce incentives to make claims for the money
  • employer obligations to provide government information statements to every new employee result in shifting government responsibility to private employers
  • public holiday work standards are ‘complex and uncertain’.
 
‘In light of these findings, the undisputed fact that some young people have lost their jobs due to the new work laws, and the 29 October Melbourne resolution of more than 20 business organisations, representing over 100,000 businesses, identifying problems with aspects of the laws, both the Government and Opposition should put aside the old politics of WorkChoices and work with industry to propose sensible changes to fix these problems,’ Anderson said.
 
Finish national system
 
ACCI also used the release of the Amendola Report to renew its call for the completion of the national system through referrals of power.
 
‘Given that at least 70% of employees in Western Australia are in the national system, and given that most of the remaining employees are in the public not private sector, it makes little sense for the few private sector workplaces covered by the State IR system to be subject to a separate body of legislation,’ Anderson said.
 
‘The Gillard Government is right to seek its conclusion.’
 
‘The sooner some of the deficiencies in the national fair work laws that Amendola identifies are fixed, the more effective the business community can be in advocating that the WA Government should complete the national system through sensible referrals as other states have done.’
 
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