Opinion piece by Mark Stone AM, Chief Executive, Victorian Chamber of Commerce and Industry
Anti-business sentiment is a bad deal for Victoria.
Shop floors around Victoria risk becoming battlegrounds if the current anti-business approach continues.
Instead of being able to grow jobs in Victoria through more cooperation between businesses and employees, the Victorian business community finds itself under attack from unions and confronted by a spate of new and unwelcomed industrial relations laws. Among them are changes to portable long service leave, and labour hire licensing.
It is time for a simpler, more predictable business environment. Victoria needs less red tape and a pro-business environment to keep thriving. The Fair Work Commission understands this and is rewriting the awards to make it simpler for business to hire workers.
Sadly, this seems to be missed by the Victorian Government, which recently announced that if re-elected in November, it will create new criminal offences for workplace manslaughter and non-compliance with workplace laws. It has also committed to enshrine costly new public holidays in legislation and is reviewing the ‘gig economy’.
The proposed new laws are not needed. Workplace laws in Victoria are already rightfully strong, with substantial penalties for reckless behaviour that endangers lives. Victorian employers and employees understand they have a shared responsibility for workplace safety and their collaboration is working. Victorian workplaces are the safest they have ever been – that’s the evidence from the Government’s own agency, WorkSafe Victoria.
And while there have recently been some high-profile cases of workers being underpaid, the vast majority of businesses do the right thing. The business community is the first to condemn anyone deliberately failing to act in accordance with workplace laws because we all know it’s unfair to underpay workers. Its unfair on workers and unfair on businesses doing the right thing.
The workplace relations system is not perfect but it’s also not broken. What’s needed are practical reforms that will support honest businesses and enhance job growth.
The Victorian Chamber supports businesses complying with existing laws and regulations, and we will continue to advocate for practical reforms that benefit business and encourage a collaborative approach to workplace safety.
Victoria’s 590,000 businesses and their 2.5 million employees contribute most of Victoria’s tax revenue, infrastructure, goods and services that Victorians rely on. The private sector and particularly small business provide most of the jobs in Victoria. Anti-business sentiment is not in the interests of business, workers or the community. It’s simply a bad deal for Victoria.