Workplace changes disappointment for business and workers

Business Council of Australia

The passage of laws to enable multi-employer bargaining won’t increase wages but will make the job of shielding Australians from global uncertainty even harder, Business Council chief executive Jennifer Westacott said.

“The parliament has opened the door to more disruption, more strikes and a less innovative economy. This is the biggest change to our workplace laws in 30 years, it deserved proper scrutiny.

“A workplace relations system that leaves our feet stuck in cement won’t grow wages for Australians but does risk seeing jobs go overseas.

“Make no mistake, the expansion of multi-employer bargaining will not increase wages, but it does open the door to crippling and destructive industrial action across whole sections of the economy.

“Our fundamental concern has always been the risk of destroying single enterprise bargaining because it sees Australian workers $100 a day better off. Today’s changes replace something that works with an untested, unproven model that leaves workers and businesses exposed.

“The reforms to the Better Off Overall Test (BOOT) are welcome and will reduce the complexity of getting agreements that pay Australians more. This is a reform that the BCA has been advocating for a long time and will restore the BOOT to being a global assessment rather than a line by line comparison with the award.

“While we welcome the amendments businesses were able to secure that limit some of the harm, including a longer “grace period” for businesses with single enterprise agreements before they could be roped into multi-employer bargaining, and a ‘reasonable comparability’ provision.

“Even with amendments, the devil is in the detail and those waiting for wage increases will now need to wait months or years while the Fair Work Commission interprets hundreds of pages of legislation.

“The extraordinary possibility that large businesses could be compelled to bargain together and set pay and conditions is anti-competitive, bad for small businesses and bad for wages growth. It is still unclear whether this is the intention of these laws, as these questions were not able to be answered during the Parliamentary process.

“The parliament has made this decision and now all Australians will have to live with the consequences, so we’ve got to get on with action that makes Australia a more attractive place for investment and jobs.

“These laws inject a new level of uncertainty into the economy in a period already plagued by uncertainty. Time will tell just how many new strike or delayed and missed pay rises workers endure as a result of these new laws, but businesses will be monitoring their impact in the lead up to the welcome statutory review.

“The government will have to get serious about building the skills system needed to decarbonise and adapt to change, and we’ll have to finally scrap the red tape that acts as a barrier and blockage to new investment.

“Businesses are bitterly disappointed with this legislation but Australians are served best when their leaders are working together, so we’ll continue to work with the government to find solutions that leave Australian businesses and workers better off.

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