BCA to Press Ahead on Unitary National Workplace Relations System

The Business Council of Australia is to host a public forum in November on the issues involved in establishing a genuine, unitary national workplace relations system.

The Executive Director of the BCA, Mr David Buckingham, said today the hodgepodge of one federal and five state systems was too costly to administer, too confusing for employers and employees and was the product of an historical era long since past.

Mr Buckingham said a range of difficulties existed with the present system, including:

  1. Constitutional limitations which have produced a federal system with patchy coverage due to the ‘interstatedness’ of the dispute factors.
  2. The federal tribunal is able to exclude state tribunals from exercising their powers in certain circumstances.
  3. Differing tribunals have different outcomes in like matters.
  4. State legislation and awards can apply to some workers in one company, while federal legislation and awards apply to others.
  5. Additional costs and inefficiencies associated with the maintenance of duplicate federal and state systems, including tribunals, registries and, to a lesser extent, enforcement arrangements.
  6. The operation of more than one system can encourage ‘forum shopping’.
  7. Uncertainty created by the parallel operation of different tribunals.
  8. The multiplicity of jurisdictions and registration processes has contributed to demarcation disputes.

“We believe the case for Australia to have a unitary, national system of workplace relations is compelling,” Mr Buckingham said.

“Of course, a national industrial system must have the confidence of its stakeholders and customers, and the broad support of the community. Public debate and dialogue needs to occur with logic, reflection and good will.

“The BCA forum to be held in November will be an opportunity to bring together for the first time all stakeholders and others with relevant interests whose opinions and experiences will be vital to building cross-community support for the national system of our future.”