IR Bill deal fails to address industry concerns

“The late night deal between Senator Pocock and the Federal Government means Australian industry now faces an industrial relations system riddled with conflict, complexity and uncertainty,” Innes Willox, Chief Executive of the national employer association Ai Group said today.

“The deal as it stands does not remove the core concerns for industry – that businesses can be dragged into a multi enterprise bargaining arrangement based on still vague notions of a ‘common interest’; remain subject to the threat and reality of greater industrial action; and have no clear pathway to extract themselves from a bargaining system that may not suit their circumstances.

“The primacy of the enterprise agreement system which has underpinned much of our economic success over the past four decades has now been shattered. There is nothing in the deal or the legislation that will drive the substantial productivity growth Australia needs to deliver wages growth.

“We now truly face a return to a 1970s industrial model, entirely unsuited to the 21st Century open and productive economy we need. The ramifications of the proposals on employment, investment and business certainty will be far reaching.

“We now face the prospect of more strikes and fewer jobs. There has been no modelling on any economic benefit of the legislation, only the vague hope that employers with an industrial gun to their head will pay more and somehow not pass costs onto consumers or reduce their headcount.

“Of the concessions agreed to by the Government, there is very little improvement for the vast bulk of Australian businesses. They largely amount to tinkering around the edges of what at its heart remains a fundamentally flawed Bill.

“The change in headcount exemption for small business is almost meaningless. A review of awards has already been dragging on for almost a decade. A two-year review of the legislation, if it is done by the parliament, will undoubtedly find it had been a stunning success regardless of the reality for industry. The exemption for civil construction is welcome but does nothing to fundamentally change the CFMMEU’s construction division’s business model which relies on threats and intimidation.

“Industry will continue to constructively work with the Senate to seek to improve the legislation. There is a lot in the Bill, such as around sexual harassment and gender equity and, with some amendments, changes to the Better Off Overall Test that industry clearly supports. A range of amendments to the operability of the legislation will be proposed to the Senate this week. Industry hopes they can be accepted to improve the legislation as it applies in the real world of Australian workplaces,” Mr Willox said.

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