Business groups say Fair Work review tweaks don’t address key problems

Business groups have expressed their disappointment with the release of the Fair Work Review, saying it was a wasted opportunity to improve productivity and address critical issues in the industrial relations system.

Workplace Relations Minister Bill Shorten released the report this afternoon, saying it recommended no major changes. The report said the legislation was working as the Federal Government had planned and that it wasn’t responsible for a downturn in productivity.

The Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry said it was a “bitterly disappointing” review.

“The economy and flagging productivity don’t wait for bad regulations to catch up or for courts to fix them. The price for waiting is weaker businesses and weaker job security,” chief executive Peter Anderson said in a statement.

“It takes a Pollyanna view of the industrial relations system, especially its hope that union problems experienced by employers will cure themselves. History tells us they don’t and won’t.”

Anderson says even the minor changes in the report don’t fix areas where the system has not worked – business had been calling for changes in bargaining and in unfair dismissal procedures.

The report recommends no changes to the current unfair dismissal system, except for minor tweaks. It recommends the time limit for lodging applications should be 21 days, and that FWA should be given the power to dismiss applications in some circumstances.

“Especially for small employers, there is nothing in it. Increased small business costs under industrial awards that the government promised would not exist, but which now exist, are left in place.”

Australian Industry Group has also released a statement, with chief executive Innes Willox saying the recommendations “fall short”.

“The biggest problem with the Fair Work Act review report is that in virtually all of the key areas, the recommended changes fall short of what is necessary to address the big problems with the Act.”

“It is vital that the government not make the same mistake when it releases its response to the report.”

Specifically, AIG noted the report mentioned problems occurring with greenfield agreements, and repeated its belief unions have “far too much power” to hold up new projects.

The solution in the report is to require an employer to bargain in good faith with all unions. But as the AIG points out, many employers are likely to be concerned about this.

“The panel has recommended some worthwhile changes to Individual flexibility arrangements, transfer of business laws and the general protections but the changes fall short of those necessary to address the key problems.

Business Council of Australia chief executive Jennifer Westacott also attacked the report on Sky News, saying the recommendations “don’t address the fundamental concerns that businesses had”.

 

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