BCA Forum pushes for National Unitary Industrial Relations System

The continued failure to implement a unitary national industrial relations system would leave Australia languishing in a globalised community, the President of the Business Council of Australia, Mr Campbell Anderson, said today.

Speaking at the BCA ‘A Unitary Industrial Relations System: Unfinished Business of the 20th Century’ forum in Melbourne, Mr Anderson said there was a compelling case for an industrial relations framework with a wider base than the present conciliation and arbitration powers.

“Firstly, in the contemporary context of globalisation, mobility and communication, interstate boundaries are becoming almost irrelevant to business and industry. Our economy is far more integrated and interdependent than what our founding fathers could have imagined,” he said.

“Secondly, almost everyone would accept it as preferable for workplace relations at the national level to be managed without the prerequisite of disputation. The days of master/servant relationships are long gone, and the boundaries of managers and other employees are increasingly blurred.

“Emphasis is increasingly being placed on teamwork and workplace cultures with mutual trust and the alignment of personal and organisational objectives and values.

“Thirdly, the existing conciliation and arbitration powers distort how we must operate, including the creation of technical, cumbersome, complex and costly procedures that have been fashioned to shoehorn public policy and legislation within the constitutional imperative.

“The resulting transaction costs impose disadvantage on enterprises which must compete in an increasingly open world marketplace if they are to survive.”

Mr Anderson said if stakeholders continued to put the challenge of a unitary national industrial relations system in the too hard basket, the country would have lost a significant oportunity.

“Unless there is change, Australia will continue to labour under a fragmented industrial relations or workplace system for the foreseeable future,” he said.

“This will leave us languishing and ill-equipped as a nation for the challenges of being successful in a globalised community where, increasingly, the necessary competitive advantages will only be achieved and then retained through marginal factors.”