Fair Work Commission to get more power to arbitrate and allow unions into workplaces

More changes to the Fair Work Act to give the Fair Work Commission more power will be announced by the federal government today.

The changes will give the Fair Work Commission the power to arbitrate disputes over new workplace agreements and will enable access to workplace by union officials.

It will have the power to arbitrate deadlocked negotiations on enterprise agreements and to settle disputes over the frequency of workplace visits by union officials and the location of on-site meetings with employees.

Employment and Workplace Relations Minister Bill Shorten outlined the changes yesterday in a briefing to the National Workplace Relations Consultative Council.

The government has previously flagged that the changes will also include expanding the range of workers eligible to request flexible work arrangements, which is currently restricted to parents of pre-school or disabled children.

A spokesperson for Minister Shorten’s office told SmartCompany the planned changes will be confirmed in a statement later today.

The changes to the Fair Work Act are likely to be opposed by business groups.

Peter Strong, executive director of the Council of Small Business of Australia, told SmartCompany SMEs did not need unions.

“In our area we are not unionised and I doubt the unions want to go into a small workplace, and they shouldn’t have the capacity to do so,” he says.

“It’s just a few people in most small businesses, [the unions] could say anything they wanted and nobody would be able to challenge them.”

Ines Willox, chief executive of the Australian Industry Group, said in a statement that the proposed changes were “unbalanced” and “pro-union”.

“Some of the proposals are way out of step and require a major rethink by the Government,” he said.

“The reported proposal to give union officials the right to meet employees in lunch rooms, including for recruitment purposes, would reinstate arrangements that were abolished 15 years ago and which hark back to the days when almost half of the workforce was unionised and industrial disputes were common. These days only 13% of employees in the private sector are union members.”



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