Employers call for tweaks to workplace law

Matt Coughlan
(Australian Associated Press)


A leading business group has urged federal parliament to reform workplace laws, arguing employers are frustrated with inaction.

In a speech to the Brisbane Club on Tuesday, Ai Group chief executive Innes Willox hit back at the Australian Council of Trade Unions’ Change The Rules campaign by outlining his own vision for industrial relations.

He said the changes put forward by the ACTU could “cripple” whole industries.

“The unions are trying to convince us all that their retrograde, self-serving proposals are just what the community needs,” he said.

“Sensible people know that Australian businesses need to be productive and competitive if they are to continue to employ people and to offer generous wages and conditions.”

Mr Willox said a 2015 Productivity Commission review of workplace laws “gathers dust”, with the lack of action frustrating businesses.

But ACTU secretary Sally McManus returned serve, vowing to fight for substantial reform regardless of Mr Willox’s views.

“Innes Willox knows that big business has too much power, that Australians don’t have secure work, that pay rises are at record lows,” Ms McManus said.

“But these aren’t problems in his world, and they aren’t problems for the big business bosses he’s talking to at the Brisbane Club.”

Mr Willox called for five key changes to the Fair Work Act to:

* Give the Fair Work Commission more discretion to overlook minor errors in enterprise agreements which cause EBAs to be withdrawn (legislation is before parliament).

* Apply the commission’s Better Off Overall Test to “logical” groups of employees, rather than individual workers.

* Change transfer of business laws to help businesses restructure.

* Tighten “permitted matters” for bargaining claims, including outlawing enterprise agreement clauses that restrict the engagement of contractors.

* Prevent enterprise agreements requiring employers make contributions to worker entitlement funds which do not have appropriate standards of governance (laws are before parliament).

“These five modest and sensible changes to the Fair Work Act would boost productivity and competitiveness, whilst preserving fairness for employees and employers,” Mr Willox said.

The union movement’s Change the Rules campaign will involve mass meetings and marches starting next week and continuing through May.


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