CEOs cite risks of 'rushed' IR legislation

New findings reinforce businesses' reservations about multi-employer bargaining

CEOs cite risks of 'rushed' IR legislation

CEOs across Australia have expressed their reservations about the recently passed industry relations (IR) bill in Parliament, according to a new report from The Australian.

The news outlet's 2022 CEO survey, which was answered by 90 executives, revealed the opinions held by the corporate leaders on various issues, including the new bill that allows for multi-employer bargaining as part of the government's attempt to get wages moving.

For Newcrest Mining CEO Sandeep Biswas, the government's "rushed" legislation has gone through Parliament with not enough consultation and communication.

"There are significant risks for our sector and the economy in the proposed legislation. Australia should be trying harder to attract global mining investment, not driving it away with less flexible and more costly workplace relations laws," Biswas told The Australian's survey.

Lynas CEO Amanda Lacaze also said she is hoping that the government would "reconsider its plan," nothing that the current industrial relations system is working for the mining industry.

Concerns on the IR bill from the mining industry is nothing new, as the Minerals Council of Australia previously rejected the multi-employer bargaining system.

"Multi-employer bargaining would shoehorn diverse employers and employees into one-size-fits-all agreements and enable unions to shut down whole industries – or large segments – with protected industrial action over matters not relevant to the performance of individual operations," said Tania Constable, chief executive officer of the council, in a previous statement.

Industrial action is also the concern raised by Vik Bansal, CEO of building material company Boral, in his response to The Australian's question on the IR bill.

"It's a significant step away from enterprise-based bargaining which by definition is focused on the needs of the particular enterprise – employer and employees. Multi-employer bargaining creates the risk of industry-wide strikes to drive up wages and conditions without any focus on productivity at the enterprise level," Bansal said in his survey response.

The findings of The Australian's survey double down on the concerns of employers against the IR legislation, particularly multi-employer bargaining.

These laws will do nothing to help businesses grow, to become more productive, and to pay higher wages,” said Andrew McKellar, CEO of the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

National employer organisation Ai Group previously said multi-employer bargaining could hurt the economy and workplaces, citing an interim report from the Productivity Commission which warned that the system could diminish productivity benefits.

"The commission's plea that changes need to be undertaken with caution and be subject to detailed, rigorous, and transparent analysis mustn't be ignored. The PC report is a brutal reality check for unions proposing radical reform in this area. Any proposal that would undermine enterprise bargaining, increase industrial action and disruption in already fragile supply chains would be fiercely opposed by business," said AI Group chief executive Innes Willox in a previous statement.

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