Ai Group warns against 'set-and-forget approach' for second wave of workplace reforms
Ai Group is planning to raise its concerns about "problematic" multi-employer bargaining provisions as Parliament is set to open negotiations on a second wave of workplace reforms.
Ai Group, which represents over 60,000 businesses in Australia, said employers are hoping that Workplace Relations Minister Tony Burke is open to addressing "real and emerging problems with the new laws that need fixing."
"For example, we would urge him to look at some of the details governing the practical operation of the new multi-employer bargaining provisions that remain unclear and are obviously problematic," Ai Group chief executive Innes Willox said in a statement.
"This includes the provisions dealing with the tests and processes to be applied by the Fair Work Commission when determining whether different employers can be drawn into bargaining for, or coverage by, a particular multi-employer agreement against their will."
In December, Australia passed changes to multi-employer bargaining under an IR bill that employers criticised as "fundamentally flawed."
And while Willox said the industry is not expecting wholesale changes, they want government to avoid a "set-and-forget approach, given that a number of last-minute adjustments to the legislation were made in such an extraordinary rush and without reasonable public consultation."
Negotiations to begin next week
Concerns from employers are also growing as Australia gears up for a second wave of workplace reforms, which Parliament is expected to discuss next week.
The Guardian reported that Parliament will address legislation on extending paid parental leave, putting superannuation in the national employment standards, migrant worker protections, among others.
The government will then move to "more controversial stuff" in the second half of the year, which will include criminalising wage theft, among other Labour commitments, The Guardian reported, citing Burke.
"Employers will naturally be concerned about efforts to further regulate workplaces so soon after the first wave of measures were passed by Parliament and are still being worked through," said Willox in his statement.
He also cautioned the government on putting further penalties on employers on the topic of "wage theft."
"In implementing such a policy, the government must recognise that the vast majority of underpayments are due to the complexity of the system and inadvertent mistakes by employers," Willox said. "There needs to be tangible and urgent steps taken to reduce the complexity of our all too often overly prescriptive and confusing workplace relations laws."
The group, however, welcomed the government's stance on union moves to impose bargaining fees on non-union members.
"This claim was never going to fly, and it was a positive move today for the Minister to make clear that it was not, and we expect that it will not be on the government's agenda," Willox said.
The Ai Group chief called for further support for employers who are already subject to new rules under workplace reforms and are likely bracing for more.
"Industry will be seeking to work with the Government to ensure that any new measures do not inhibit the ability of employers to employ, innovate, and invest."