At a conference this week Prime Minister Julia Gillard ruled out meeting business demands for major changes to the three-year-old Fair Work Act, which is currently under scheduled review.
Gillard told a packed NSW Labor conference that the existing workplace regime was a “modern and fair system that has got the balance right”, the Australian Financial Review reported. The statements come despite increasing criticism from the business community that the laws had resulted in aggressive industrial demands led by emboldened unions.
Various business groups submitted to the independent review panel that the laws allow unions to wield too much power in enterprise bargaining. Amongst a raft of submissions, many groups argued for individual agreement making to be strengthened, and the retail, hospitality and tourism industries lobbied for an end to penalty rates.
While the review panel’s report is yet to be officially considered by federal cabinet, the PM said any changes would lock in fairness and emphatically ruled out meeting the calls to scrap penalty rates. “We won’t make it easier to sack people,” she said. “We won’t make it harder to represent working people; we won’t enter a race to the bottom in our region on wages; we won’t make it easier to cut pay or strip conditions like penalty rates or public holidays. And we won’t bring back a culture of confrontation that sets employer against employee and destroys productivity through conflict,” Gillard said.
The Fair Work Review panel’s recommendations are set to be released by the end of July and Workplace Relations Minister Bill Shorten said he would consult with employers and unions before acting on any proposed changes.
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