Back to the Future with Government IR Changes

“Today’s media reports signal the government is more interested in meeting union demands than growing jobs and productivity, with industrial relations changes that hark back to the strike-ridden 1970s and 1980s,” Business Council of Australia President Tony Shepherd said.

“This is a broken promise by the government, which guaranteed when it announced the Fair Work Act review that there wouldn’t be a return to the disruptive and unproductive bad old days of compulsory arbitration of workplace disputes,” Mr Shepherd said.

“The government, with these reported changes, is unwinding years of reforms from the Hawke, Keating and Howard years which aimed to create an industrial relations system that supports long-term jobs growth and productivity through greater trust and collaboration between employers and workers.

“What the government is saying through these reported changes is employers and their workers can’t be trusted to agree on mutually beneficial arrangements in their workplaces. The vast majority of employers and employees have a relationship these days based on mutual trust.

“We accept we are a high-wage country but we must have matching high productivity, and our workplace relations laws need to support this.
“Long ago governments realised that compulsory arbitration neither improved the job prospects of Australian workers or helped businesses to stay competitive in a global economy.

“We know the community will see these changes as being a bad fit for today’s modern workplaces where 87 per cent of the private sector workforce no longer requires a union representative in every workplace to determine how they work and how they interact with their employer.

“The reported changes are more akin to workplaces of decades ago in which every second employee was a union member and there was no direct engagement between employers and most of their workers.

“Rather than listen to the many submissions to its review of the Fair Work Act in which it was made clear there was a need for changes to make it easier to hire workers, to stay competitive and to improve productivity the government has instead opted for a return to the past.

“While the government says it wants to grow jobs, it continues to make decisions that impede job creation. There is a fundamental contradiction between what the government says about jobs and what it actually does.

“Unfortunately, these reported amendments to the Fair Work Act seem more intent on putting unproductive barriers between employer and employee rather than building collaborative, safe and productive workplaces with sensible recourse when an employer or employee does the wrong thing,” Mr Shepherd said.

For further information contact:
Scott Thompson, Director, Media and Public Affairs
Business Council of Australia
Telephone (03) 8664 2664 | Mobile 0403 241 128