'Opposite of fair': Businesses launch campaign against Same Job, Same Pay measure

Warn of 'risks' to wages, jobs, flexibility if government implements changes

'Opposite of fair': Businesses launch campaign against Same Job, Same Pay measure

Several business groups in Australia have launched a campaign to raise public awareness of the “risks” if the federal government implements the “so-called” ‘Same Job, Same Pay’ industrial relations changes.

They say the changes will lead to lower wage growth and fewer jobs.

And by law, “employers will have to pay workers with little knowledge or experience exactly the same as workers with decades of knowledge and experience.”

The business groups include:

  • Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (ACCI)
  • Australian Petroleum Production & Exploration Association
  • Business Council of Australia (BCA)
  • Council of Small Business Organisations Australia
  • Master Builders Australia
  • Minerals Council of Australia
  • National Farmers Federation
  • Recruitment, Consulting & Staffing Association

"The so-called 'Same Job, Same Pay' proposals does not mean equal pay for men and women. It does not speak of fairness and justice, as its name falsely represents," the groups said in a joint statement.

"It means by law, you cannot earn better pay by working harder or longer, if your colleague does not share your ambition or work ethic," the statement added.

Productivity, flexibility to be hit

The groups are also claiming that passing the measure will remove workers' capacity to negotiate for more pay in exchange for their hard work.

"People should be rewarded for their experience and effort, but those laws are going to make it impossible," said BCA CEO Jennifer Westacott. "This is going to really impact on workers who are struggling with cost-of-living pressures and will also make Australia an extremely unattractive destination for people to invest - that means less jobs."

The measure will also affect flexibility, according to ACCI CEO Andrew McKellar.

"Same Job, Same Pay is a misnomer. It's the opposite of fair by restricting reward for effort and experience. It will take away the flexibility that workers want and businesses need," he said in a statement.

"Eliminating flexibility will weaken the economy, punish workers and drive-up costs for consumers."

Minister disputes group’s claims

Employment and Workplace Relations Minister Tony Burke has previously referred to the labour hire system as a "loophole" that undercuts what casual employees are getting compared to what is set as employees' rate of pay.

Commenting on the business groups' awareness campaign, Burke said he wasn't sure what they were campaigning against.

"The arguments that they're putting forward… they were claiming that it means that you can no longer pay someone more because they've been in your business for longer. It's just not true," he told Sky News in an interview. "Not something I've ever said. I went back to the consultation documents they were given. It's not in there."

While Burke said they haven't landed on the final legislation, he clarified that they aren't asking employers to pay more than what they've agreed to.

"But if you've actually agreed with your workforce that this is a fair rate of pay, that this is the rate of pay that reflects the productivity of the job, then I don't think you should be able to just say, 'But technically now, the next person we're bringing in is from a labour-hire firm, so we're going to undercut everything we just agreed to,'" he said.

Consultation on the measure is still ongoing, but the government said it plans to legislate it in the Spring 2023 sitting of Parliament.

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