Business Outlines Workplace Reform Plan to Lock in Prosperity

Australia’s peak business group today released an action plan for reform of workplace relations to underpin economic growth, employment opportunities and rising prosperity.

The plan focuses on greater flexibility and choice for employees and employers in making workplace agreements; simplifying workplace relations regulation; and removing barriers to job creation.

The Business Council of Australia said a decade had passed since the last significant changes to workplace relations, making a new round of changes critically important to support increased productivity and drive long-term growth and prosperity.

The changes proposed by the BCA focus on:

  • Simplifying awards by reducing the content and number of awards, and eventually moving to a single set of statutory conditions to replace the award system.
  • Improving the flexibility of agreement making including through streamlined filing and approval processes and the application of a simpler no-disadvantage test.
  • Developing a single, national system of workplace relations to remove duplication between state and federal systems.
  • Ensuring that issues of fairness are addressed through the tax–welfare transfer system rather than through workplace regulation.

The Chairman of the BCA’s Employment and Participation Task Force, Mr Michael Chaney, said the changes proposed by the BCA continued the direction of workplace reform undertaken over the past 20 years which has played an important role in Australia’s economic success.

The BCA’s Workplace Relations Action Plan for Future Prosperity draws on analysis undertaken by Access Economics which was commissioned by the BCA to examine the benefit of past reforms and possible directions for future workplace reforms.

“The ongoing success of our economy – in particular its capacity to deliver higher living standards and strong incomes growth – depends on allowing Australian workplaces, large and small, to be as flexible, skilled, productive and competitive as possible,” Mr Chaney said.

“While much has been achieved in the last 20 years, despite strong productivity growth, Australia still lags many of its competitors. Productivity is the source of our economy’s ongoing competitiveness and higher living standards, and Australia’s workplace relations policies must better support further productivity growth.”

“The action plan aims to lock in and expand on the opportunities that have flowed from economic growth over the last decade. ”

The plan follows the release earlier this month by BCA President, Mr Hugh Morgan of the council’s Action Plan for Future Prosperity which outlines the case for a new round of reforms to important parts of the economy, including workplace relations, tax, infrastructure planning and regulation.

The BCA welcomed recent statements by the federal government that it would make workplace relations reform a priority and was confident that the recommendations it was putting forward, based on extensive research, would make a positive contribution to the government’s planned reforms.

“The BCA represents Australia’s leading companies which employ nearly one million Australians. BCA Members consider workplace relations reform to be extremely important to increase competitiveness, keep unemployment at record lows and sustain higher incomes for the long term,” he said.

A critical observation in the Access Report – one which was strongly supported by the BCA – was that workplace policies should focus on growing the size of the economy.

“Workplace relations policies are better targeted toward creating opportunities, growth and prosperity,” Mr Chaney said. “Increasing prosperity will ensure increased employment and standards of living.”

Mr Chaney highlighted the need for the tax-transfer system to work hand in hand with the workplace relations system to target issues of fairness. He also said these reforms needed to be pursued in conjunction with an effective skills development and training agenda.

“This package of changes proposed by the BCA is designed to help achieve a bigger and more productive economy through sustaining high levels of employment, people working to their potential and being rewarded for effort and capability.

“The current health of the economy and the record $39 billion corporate tax contribution to federal revenues result directly from the microeconomic reform – and in particular labour market reform – of the last decade. Increased competitiveness provides governments with a greater capacity to achieve fairness through the tax–transfer system.”