Senate, workers and businesses deserve answers

Business Council of Australia

Evidence presented at today's Senate hearing on workplace relations changes is deeply troubling to everyone that wants to see Australians earn more, Business Council chief executive Jennifer Westacott said.

"Senators looking for answers, businesses seeking certainty and workers hoping for a pay rise still don't have the answers they need to justify a radical expansion of multi-employer bargaining that will simply make things worse.

"This was the last opportunity to explain critical elements of the bill but with no modelling and no economic impact analysis the Senate is still in the dark. In fact, the only new data provided today showed that compliance costs for small and medium businesses are set to explode.

"Make no mistake, the expansion of multi-employer bargaining will not increase wages but it does open the door to more strikes and more disruption.

"At a time of global economic uncertainty, skyrocketing inflation and a global cost of living crisis, Australia has almost full employment and wages are beginning to strengthen, why would we take this risk?

"Before making such sweeping changes, the Senate is right to ask for clarity around how this new system will work, which sectors will be forced to bargain and how small businesses are expected to navigate the system.

"Why should industries that already pay higher wages and bargain effectively be included in changes designed to lift the wages of low income earners?

"Even the department itself was unable to explain how the 'common interest test' for multi-employer bargaining will work and whether it would see big competitors being forced to bargain together. That's bad for wages, bad for competition and bad for consumers.

"Unless dramatic changes are made to this element of the bill we run the risk of bogging the system down, delaying wage increases and opening the door to the kind of widespread industrial action many in the union movement have called for.

"We are running the risk of destroying the single enterprise bargaining system - with a proven track record of delivering higher wages and better conditions - with an untested, unproven model that could send workers backwards.

"We're ready to work across the parliament and with government to ensure that this change doesn't create unintended consequences that punish Australians."

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