Employers seek changes to IR Bill

by 15 Dec 2008

EMPLOYER GROUPS have expressed concern at the prospect of additional workplace regulation and labour costs at a time of global eco nomic crisis, a forecast rise in unem ployment and a downturn in domestic business activity.

A recent meeting of the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (ACCI) and senior industrial relations executives from other employer groups and industry associations identified sig nificant areas in which the Fair Work Bill needed amendment, said Peter Anderson, chief executive of the ACCI.

He said these included: a bargaining process skewed to union rights; higher wages and conditions in modern awards; new industrial rules affecting outsourcing, redundancies and the sale of businesses; wider union entry rights; adverse impacts for investment cer tainty and stable industrial relations in some sectors; and unnecessarily broad scope for compulsory arbitration of agreements.

“The meeting also considered it likely that the unfair dismissal system would still generate ‘go away’ money – unless the proposed Fair Dismissal Code is given more standing,” Anderson said.

“The accumulation of these con cerns made the Bill unbalanced in its current form and unlikely to lead to a productivity boost that could fund the higher business costs. They were capable of resolution by sensible amendments being considered and adopted by the parliament.”

Workplace regulation does impact on economic activity, according to Anderson, and feeds into the hiring intentions of employers. “Though some changes are warranted to exist ing laws, the Fair Work Bill has a heavy emphasis on new employee and union rights,” he said.

“Over time, these rights impose costs. In some sectors they will be sig nificant. In each business they have to be paid for.”

However, ACTU president Sharan Burrow said the proposed legislation would deliver an industrial umpire with powers to settle intractable dis putes as well as a new role for the courts to enforce awards and the National Employment Standards.

Burrow also said that new collec tive bargaining rights will help protect the income and jobs of working Aus tralians in an uncertain economic envi ronment, and welcomed the ban on further use of Australian Workplace Agreements, and a requirement that existing AWAs must comply with new national standards.

For more information on Forward with Fairness, see page 16

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