Andrew Smith gave a speech to the Committee for Economic Development forum, in which he called for the overhaul to ensure living standards could be maintained and to prevent Australia’s global competitiveness from being undermined, the Sydney Morning Herald
Smith also said that enterprise bargain agreements in sectors like construction needed to be reshaped to allow them to cover the length of time it takes to complete a project.
He gave an example of a project involving five skilled workers doing maintenance, which would take 500 hours, but which rose to 600 hours with scheduled breaks and travel.
"But because of restrictive workplace practices, such as demarcation, it led to an actual labour spend of 700 hours. The result was we had 500 hours of work, but we paid for 700... Not only did it cost more to complete the task, but the equipment being maintained was unavailable for longer than expected and longer than necessary.”
He said “unproductive clauses” in enterprise agreements needed to be eliminated so that labour could be allocated effectively.
Joydeep Hor, managing principal at People+Culture Strategies, told HC there was “a strong perception among numerous business leaders”, particularly those who had operations outside of Australia, that the workplace relations infrastructure in Australia was not conducive to multinationals wanting to invest in doing business here.
"Politically, it was only two elections ago that reforms to the industrial relations
system were seen as the most dominant election issue and many would say that Work Choices led to the demise of the Howard Government. What that confirms is that radical IR reform is something that is unlikely to happen at anytime soon," said Hor.
"What we have seen with the impact on manufacturing in Australia is very much a consequence of the legacy framework that has been in Australia for over a century and in circumstances where our neighbours in the region are not constrained by such a legacy, we need to understand what that might mean for foreign investment."
What do you think of Australia’s workplace practices?
The head of global energy giant Shell in Australia has called for workplace practice reform and changes to enterprise bargain agreements.