A national meeting of more than 20 leading employer and business organisations held in Melbourne on Friday has called for changes to Australia’s Fair Work laws, and for an independent review of current IR laws.
The meeting was convened by the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (ACCI) and included senior IR executives from Chambers of Commerce and National Industry Associations who sought to lobby the Productivity Commission, the government’s research and advisory body, into conducting a review.
It was the first meeting of ACCI’s Workplace Policy Committee since a renewed debate on the fair work laws was sparked by recent industrial action in the aviation, construction, ports and manufacturing industries.
The meeting passed a joint-resolution which endorsed participation in the government’s 2012 review, but warned that the Qantas dispute risked taking focus away from more widespread impacts on small and medium enterprises.
Following the meeting, ACCI’s CEO Peter Anderson said, "The value of this discussion was to highlight that despite high profile cases like Qantas, most employers regulated by the system remained small and medium businesses.”
Anderson acknowledged that the fair work laws have different impacts across sectors, but said that common view at the meeting was that they [Fair Work laws] increased trade union power, and was ultimately impeding business from operating efficiency, and imposes higher costs and red tape on small businesses.
Organisations represented at the meeting also expressed a strong view that the review must be independent, wide ranging, and preferably conducted by the Productivity Commission.
Anderson added: “Vital as it is to fix problems with excessive union power over strikes and bargaining, important SME issues also exist, such as higher labour costs under awards, new adverse action and unfair dismissal litigation, and the compliance nightmare when Fair Work laws are added.”
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