Working together to make Australia stronger

The Business Council of Australia today welcomed the government’s package of industrial relations reforms designed to accelerate job creation and deliver a system that works better for both workers and employers.

“Our starting point has to be the simple equation that good jobs go hand in hand with competitive, strong and growing businesses so we need a system where employers and workers can be successful together,’’ Business Council chief executive Jennifer Westacott said.

“These practical and workable changes go to the heart of fixing key problems in the system, particularly the complexity of the Better Off Overall Test which has made the enterprise bargaining system conflict-driven, slow, overly technical and saw the number of enterprise agreements in free fall.

“The government’s changes give employers and workers more flexibility and choice while retaining important safeguards.

“They should be seen together as a whole package that makes the system more workable and easier for businesses to employ people and ramp up to create more jobs.

“The changes to EBAs puts the ambition back in agreement making, returning to Hawke and Keating’s original intention of a system that actively encourages employers and their teams to work together to make an enterprise successful and share in higher wages and better conditions.

“The changes will see EBAs once again become genuine alternative to awards. EBAs have historically paid people more than awards, and this puts us back on the path of achieving the higher wages, strong productivity and jobs growth Australia enjoyed in the 1990s and 2000s.

“By returning the emphasis to ‘overall’ in the BOOT and scrapping the situation where the test could apply to make believe scenarios that were never going to happen, employers have more clarity to invest, grow and employ more people.

“The reforms also end the situation where some workers have missed out on pay rises for years because the drawn-out process of making and approving enterprise agreements forces people to give up, walk away and fall back on awards or expired agreements.

“Unprecedented levels of cooperation helped steer Australia through the worst of the pandemic and saved thousands of jobs.

“These reforms give us the foundation to continue that cooperation and we must keep working together to solve problems and deliver the changes we need to create new, well-paid jobs for Australians.

“Finally, we have a definition of casual employment, a pathway for casuals to permanent employment, the introduction of flexible part-time work and better arrangements for greenfield agreements.

“It’s crucial these reforms progress so we can get the system working and we can drive incentives for employees and employers to work together to make enterprises more successful.

“The stakes are too high to miss out on this opportunity for reform. If we fail to make these important changes to the system, we risk condemning Australia to the slow lane and missing out on opportunities.

“We not only have to get unemployed people back to work, but we also need to reform the system so it is easier to work together to generate the new jobs and growth that Australia needs to be a more competitive, strong and productive economy post-COVID.’’