Employer groups: Coalition’s workplace relations policy not good enough

by Stephanie Zillman13 May 2013

Following the release of the opposition’s workplace relations policy on Thursday, Labor has been scathing in its response labeling the policy a return to the Howard-era WorkChoices regime.

Under the policy, should the Coalition come to power in September’s election, the current Fair Work Act would remain in place but with a range of amendments. Among the most significant – increased flexibility for workers to request changes to awards or workplace agreements – was hosed down by Labor. Workplace Relations Minister Bill Shorten accused the Coalition of wanting to reintroduce WorkChoices-style individual contracts in a bid to slash pay and conditions.

Opposition Leader Tony Abbott said in the lead up to the election, industrial relations would be a key battle ground. “'There is absolutely no doubt unions will shout the house down over this, but I don't think any fair-minded reader of our policy would see anything but sensible, fair-minded changes,'' he said.

Meanwhile, business groups have said the proposed changes to workplace laws were too timid and did not go far enough. “The Opposition has proposed some sensible but overly cautious changes to the Fair Work Act that most employers and employees would support.  There are many other key issues that need to be addressed without delay,” Innes Willox, CEO Ai Group said.

According to Ai Group, the proposed changes to the laws dealing with right of entry, enterprise bargaining, and Greenfields agreements are most welcome and should be supported by all sides of politics. “Also, welcome is the announcement that the Coalition intends to implement many worthwhile recommendations of the Fair Work Act Review which have not yet been addressed,” the employer group said in a statement.

Key points of the Coalition's policy

  • The current Fair Work system would remain in place
  • There would be changes to the Paid Parental Leave Scheme – namely, mothers six months leave based on their actual wage
  • Increased penalties for unions and officials to equal company penalties
  • The Australian Building and Construction Commission (ABCC) would be restored to act as watchdog commercial building sites and construction projects
  • Unions' access to workplaces would be restricted.
  • Removal of the ability to restrict the use of Labor’s Individual Flexibility Arrangements in enterprise agreements.
  • Tightened negotiation timeframes for Greenfield agreements
  • Strikes would only be admissible following talks between parties.
  • Individual flexibility arrangements would be available to all workers.
  • Unfair dismissal laws would not change
  • Recommendations from the Fair Work Review would still be considered

Ai Group had the following concerns with the policy:

  • The commitment not to implement any changes recommended by a proposed Productivity Commission inquiry into the Fair Work Act, until after yet another Federal Election;
  • The proposed extremely generous Paid Parental Leave Scheme which, if funded by business, would impose a significant cost burden on employers; and
  • The fact that the policy does not go far enough in addressing key concerns of industry in areas like the content of bargaining claims, general protections, Individual Flexibility Arrangements and transfer of business.

The full policy can be read here


  • by Anonymous 13/05/2013 4:12:45 PM

    Minister Bill Shorten is a disgrace, he didn't care that staff in Employment Services lost their jobs,he didn't have the intelligence to investigate the companies that have ripped of the system, by the way Bill, why don't you take a 50% pay cut now and see how it feels to a peasant living in Australia ?

  • by RivercityIR 14/05/2013 11:32:46 AM

    First off labor needs to stop the scaremongering. There has been more jobs lost under labor's watch then there ever was during workchoices so perhaps they need to be looking a little bit more at their own policies.

    Secondly, employer groups are no better than unions when it comes to representing their members best interests. Instead of whinging about legislation and what it doesn't do for them, how about providing them with more practical on the ground assistance to use the legislation thats there.

    The FWA does not restrict flexibility, the FWA does not stifle productivity. What does restrict both of them is the employers inability to implement processes on the ground to achieve both. Employer groups need to focus on that and actually give employers their money's worth of membership fees.

    This constant bickering and whinging needs to end and they need to stump up and actually start providing the service they so vocally proclaim they give.

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