Employers urge reinstatement of industrial relations flexibilities

Businesses urge the government to restore powers as new lockdowns threaten recovery

Employers urge reinstatement of industrial relations flexibilities

As parts of the country reimpose lockdown restrictions due to rising COVID-19 cases, businesses are urging the federal government to restore industrial relations powers that allow them to stand down staff and reduce hours.

In a joint statement, employers led by Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (ACCI) acting chief executive officer Jenny Lambert and Australian Industry Group (Ai Group) chief executive Innes Willcox have called on Prime Minister Scott Morrison to “reinstate the temporary industrial relations flexibilities in the Fair Work Act when Parliament resumes as a means of supporting employers and employees through the country’s latest as well as future lockdowns.”

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The group said the flexibilities, which came with JobKeeper payments last year, were “essential in enabling employers to maintain a connection to their employees through a period when, absent of the provisions, many businesses would have become unviable.”

“We need these flexibilities urgently reinstated alongside government financial support in order to ensure businesses have the necessary tools available to keep as many employees in jobs as possible,” the group said in their statement. “Reinstating the Fair Work Act flexibilities will enable many employers of hard-hit businesses to help keep staff on and adapt to changing circumstances.”

The Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU), however, opposed the move, saying in a statement that it would “give power to employers and put workers in a precarious position – offering them none of the safety and security that JobKeeper did.”

Unions agreed to the flexibilities last year, but together with higher JobSeeker payments.

“Unions won JobKeeper in 2020 when the pandemic began, and it worked by keeping many workers tied to their places of employment, while also offering businesses a lifeline,” said Michele O’Neil, president of ACTU. “The Morrison Government has a responsibility to working Australians to not cave to these demands from businesses, and instead to reinstate a revised JobKeeper 2 system that we know will work to protect jobs and support public safety.”

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