Amended IR Bill remains far from clear

“The devil really is in the detail when it comes to assessing the merits of the amendments regarding who will be covered by the single-interest bargaining stream. While the new ‘reasonably comparable’ test is of some limited benefit, it also raises a raft of new questions and concerns,” Innes Willox, Chief Executive of the national employer association Ai Group said today.

“Frankly, the provisions of the Bill dealing with the operation of the single-interest bargaining stream remain far from clear. There are a lot of employers who are very nervous about what the new bargaining regime will mean for them and for many, there won’t be clear answers.

“While the amendments will permit employers to argue against being roped into union proposed multi-employer bargaining, the process proposed will be very difficult and costly for employers to use. It will inevitably result in employers having to engage lawyers to help them ‘prove’ that they are not ‘reasonably comparable’ to all of the other employers covered by the agreements. This is potentially a very high bar for an employer to get past.

“The Bill unfairly puts this very significant onus on an employer with 50 staff, rather than expecting a union to demonstrate why they contend a particular employer should be covered by a relevant agreement.

“The Bill will leave employers in the impossible position of grappling with whether they should spend time and money running litigation in the Commission arguing why they shouldn’t be covered or whether they should simply give in.

“On any reasonable assessment, the real winners from the introduction of the new laws will be the lawyers.

“The amendments have obviously been hurriedly prepared and with very little consideration given to how they will operate in practice, or the impact on employers,” Mr Willox said.

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