Regardless of which political party wins the upcoming federal election, further changes to federal workplace laws has been identified by businesses as the number one priority to take action on.
A new survey by Australian Industry Group (Ai Group), which canvassed the opinions of 330 businesses across the manufacturing, services and construction sectors, has identified industrial relations reform, cutting red tape and regulatory burdens and implementing tax reform as the top business policy priorities for the next federal government.
IR reform to boost productivity was the number one priority for Australian businesses (on a weighted average basis) and almost a quarter (23.1%) nominated it as their biggest concern. Manufacturing businesses ranked it as their greatest priority (31.3%).
"It's not at all surprising that IR reform is the key business policy concern for the next government,” said Ai Group chief executive, Innes Willox. “As we have been advocating since the Fair Work Act's introduction and in the subsequent reviews of the Act, changes are needed in a number of areas to provide greater flexibility to employers and to rebalance the current excessive weight given to Union interests.”
The right of entry for unions to workplaces and the ability of unions to hold employers to ransom over greenfield agreements for new projects are identified in the report as the biggest IR-related problems.
"The unfair nature of the Fair Work Act is holding back job creation and productivity as well as forcing costs to balloon," Willox said.
"There has been a real loss of faith in the system."
The Ai Group submitted a roadmap to IR reform to the Fair Work Act Review last year. They identified the key problems and changes which need to be made to the Act:
More tightly defining the issues which can be the subject of bargaining claims to stop unions organising industrial action over matters which do not pertain to the employment relationship;
Preventing unions holding employers to ransom over greenfields agreements for new projects;
Implementing a more effective framework for individual flexibility arrangements to provide genuine flexibility to individual employees and their employers;
Fixing the general protections laws to redress the current high and increasing number of unwarranted claims from ex-employees, and the widespread payment of ‘go away’ money by employers;
Addressing the transfer of business laws which are currently operating as a barrier to the restructuring of businesses to enable them to remain competitive, and a barrier to employees being offered career opportunities within corporate groups.