Delivering secure jobs, better pay and fairer system

The Hon Tony Burke MP
Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations
Minister for the Arts

The Albanese Government is changing the law to promote job security, help close the gender pay gap, modernise the workplace bargaining system and get wages moving.

The Fair Work Legislation Amendment (Secure Jobs, Better Pay) Bill 2022 is the Government’s first tranche of workplace relations legislation and will deliver on commitments we made at the election and the Jobs and Skills Summit.

Under the previous government wages were deliberately kept low and insecure work was encouraged. Labor is taking the opposite approach because we want to help workers get ahead.

Australia’s current workplace relations framework is not working to deliver a fair go for workers – or productivity gains for employers.

We want a strong economy that delivers for all Australians. We want to see more workers in good jobs: jobs with security, fair pay and proper protections. We want workers to have a pathway to a better life and businesses to thrive.

In designing these reforms we have deliberately focused on the needs of lower-paid and female dominated workforces.

The Secure Jobs, Better Pay Bill will:

  • Help close the 14.1 per cent gender pay gap and protect women in the workplace by: putting gender equity at the heart of the Fair Work Commission’s decision-making; boosting the Commission’s gender pay gap expertise; banning pay secrecy clauses; expanding access to flexible work arrangements; and expressly prohibiting sexual harassment in the Fair Work Act.
  • Improve job security by placing new limits on rolling fixed term contracts so workers can’t be effectively put on an endless probation period.
  • Protect workers by: bolstering their ability to recover unpaid entitlements under the Fair Work small claims system; banning job ads that advertise for below the relevant minimum pay rate; and closing a loophole to protect firefighters in the ACT.
  • Return fairness to the workplace by abolishing the politicised, discredited and unnecessary Australian Building and Construction Commission and the Registered Organisations Commission.
  • Modernise the bargaining system by expanding access to enterprise bargaining and multi-employer bargaining; reforming the Better Off Overall Test so it’s simple, flexible and fair; making it easier to initiate bargaining; giving the Fair Work Commission new powers to resolve long-running intractable disputes; and terminating WorkChoices-era “zombie” agreements.

Workplace agreements deliver benefits to workers in pay and conditions – and to businesses in productivity.

But at the moment only 14.7 per cent of employees are covered by an in-term agreement.

That’s because the bargaining system has not worked effectively for a long time and the previous government did nothing to fix it.

To get wages moving – particularly for women and the low-paid – we need to reduce the barriers to bargaining.

Multi-employer bargaining is already possible under the Fair Work Act through three streams – single interest, multi-employer and low-paid. The problem is the system isn’t working.

Under this Bill we aren’t creating new streams of bargaining; we are varying the existing streams to make them workable and get wages moving.

The prohibition on pattern bargaining will remain and there will be strong safeguards around industrial action, including mandatory arbitration to bring protracted strikes to an end.

This Bill is just the start of the Government’s workplace relations reforms. We will have a second tranche of legislation next year to deliver on further commitments.

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