Bran Black interview with Kieran Gilbert, News Day, Sky News

08 February 2024

Event: Bran Black interview with Kieran Gilbert, News Day, Sky News
Speakers: Kieran Gilbert, Host, News Day, Sky News; Bran Black, Chief Executive, Business Council of Australia
Date: 8 February 2024
Topics: Industrial relations; right to disconnect amendment; intractable bargaining; definition of a casual worker


Kieran Gilbert, Host, News Day, Sky News: Bran, thanks for your time. This IR Bill, as it's going to be voted on today, my understanding talking to some of your colleagues in business is that David Pocock has been able to get a few amendments made which business welcome. Some more pro-business changes into this Bill, what's your overall reaction to it?

Bran Black, Chief Executive, Business Council of Australia: Look, firstly, thank you so much for having me on the show. Let's be clear here, there are some changes that have been made and we are grateful to the crossbenchers for the work that they've done to try and make changes. But at the end of the day, what these changes do is make a bad piece of legislation less bad. Overall, this is a piece of legislation that will take the Australian industrial relations landscape backwards, it reduces our overall prosperity. And our concern is that when you reduce that prosperity, ultimately, that translates into worse outcomes for families right around the country.

Kieran: Let’s go through a couple of the key concerns, and we'll explain as we go. First of all, intractable bargaining, this is where a business and employees or unions don't get a deal. What's your concern around this?

Bran: So that's absolutely right. So at the moment, under the intractable bargaining provisions that operate in law, where a business and union can't reach agreement, the Fair Work Commission can make a determination and that determination has to leave the employees better off overall than the existing award. What the new rules will do is say that the employees need to be better off overall on a clause by clause basis than the enterprise agreement. So that sits above the award.

Kieran: So more red tape and more demands on business?

Bran: That's exactly right. So what it does is it reduces the scope for give and take, which is what you want in a good bargaining system, which is ultimately what should characterise the way we do industrial relations.

Kieran: On the next concern, the right to disconnect. What's your worry about that Greens led initiative?

Bran: Well, it's quite extraordinary. We didn't know about this, this time last week. So the first time this was in the, I guess the formal arena, came about as a consequence of the Senate Committee Report, which was handed down last Thursday. Before then there had been discussions about some type of right. But this wasn't part of the consultation. It wasn't part of the evidence that was provided by any of the employer groups during the course of their hearings. And it certainly didn't factor into our thinking about what this Bill would include, it came out through the Senate Inquiry Report. So there's a process issue here, which has really played out this week, where you've seen people raising legitimate concerns about how this type of change operates in practice. What happens if you're in WA sending an email after 2pm for example?

Kieran: Does it also run counter to the recent trend of more flexibility for workers from home and so on off the back of COVID?

Bran: That's absolutely right. So what's interesting about these types of changes is certainly the right to disconnect seems to have come about through amendments to French law, starting in the early 2000s. The French ended up legislating in 2017. What's happened since 2017? We've had COVID. And following COVID we've had the rise of flexible work people have realised that there is a way to balance work and family life and we have more flexible workplaces as a consequence of that.

Kieran: One of the areas where I know David Pocock did get an amendment was on the move from casual work to more permanent staff to give employers a greater capacity to say, well, this is just not going to fly in our business. What's your worry about that element?

Bran: So fundamentally the concern that we've got around casuals, and we see, of course, that Senator Pocock has been able to make some changes that, as I say, make what would otherwise have been very poor law, less poor. But we're still seeing a brand new process, I was talking with the CEO of one of our members just yesterday, what he said to me is that when the Government said as part of its regulatory impact statement process, that there'd be about 10 minutes on the existing test, and a further five minutes for the new test. What that ignores is that the existing test is a one line definition that needs to be considered. And he says that still takes his workforce an hour. Now it's a 15 part test, the Government said that's going to take five minutes. Well patently that's incorrect. So there's more red tape, more process, and that's cost that ultimately gets passed on. That's not what we need right now.

Kieran: Bran Black Chief Executive of the Business Council, great to chat appreciate it. We'll talk to you soon.

Bran: Thanks so much for having me on the show.


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