Fair Work vice president quits with attack on “partisan” and “dysfunctional” commission

An outgoing vice president of the Fair Work Commission has launched a scathing attack on the government body, claiming Australia’s workplace relations framework is understandably considered a “danger zone” for business.

Fairfax reports this morning that Graeme Watson will be stepping down from his role at the commission and has told Employment Minister Michaelia Cash that the body is “undermining the objects of Fair Work legislation”.

Watson was also critical of the Fair Work Commission’s unpredictable approach to unfair dismissal cases, claiming business operators don’t trust that they will be protected from employees who have been let go because of underperformance.

Watson reportedly wrote in a letter to Cash that the business community views the commission as “partisan, dysfunctional and divided”.

Watson is one of three representatives at the commission with a “vice president” title and is five months off having served 10 years in the position. There are two other vice presidents at the commission, Adam Hatcher and Joe Catanzariti, who were appointed in 2013 by then-workplace relations minister Bill Shorten.

Notice of his resignation was communicated to Governor-General Peter Cosgrove on Friday, but Watson did not notify commission president Iain Ross of his decision beforehand, reports the Australian Financial Review.

However, in a statement this morning Ross thanked Watson for his work.

“I thank the vice president for his service to the commission and wish him well in his future endeavours,” he said.

Small business group chief calls for independent appointments 

Council of Small Business Australia chief executive Peter Strong says Watson’s comments highlight the need for more transparency at the commission, saying it’s important to have representatives at the Fair Work Commission who understand small business from the ground up.

“We need someone in there that gets the fact that the employer is a person,” Strong says.

“The thing is that everything is built on the belief that all employers are nasty people.”

While Strong believes Australia’s workplace system largely works well, he says the business community has seen unpredictable decisions in relation to unfair dismissal that make some worry about whether there is recourse if their employees are genuinely in the wrong.

“You have cases where someone gets caught with their hand in the till and then there’s no proof,” Strong says, adding that employers are also concerned about the prospect of having to pay out an employee who has done the wrong thing.

Strong believes potential improvements could be made to the commission’s operation through independent appointments and more transparency. Members of the commission are currently appointed by the Governor-General on the advice of the government of the day, which Strong points out leads to the major political parties selecting who those new members are.

“First of all we [need to] have an independent panel that elects new commissioners,” he says.

“Then we should have an assessment process for performance of commissioners, where every year, each commissioner has a performance review.”

SmartCompany contacted the Fair Work Commission for further comment on Watson’s resignation but did not receive a response prior to publication.

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T.J . Antipodes
T.J . Antipodes
3 years ago

Put it bluntly business view fair work as incredibly biased against them. Even when a law that a person cannot do a unfair dismissal, if they are in company of less than 15 people and been employed less than 12 months is there, look how much time Fairwork still let an open and shut issue go on and on.

Every employer I know who has been to it, cannot believe the bias. It makes businesses not want to emplpy and grow.

The toxic employee’s destroy moral and the productivity of the firm. The other workers want to see them go as well, but they are so hard to get rid of. They are like a virus, they cause good workers to leave and Un-Fairwork lets it happen.

If the ATO wants tax dollars, then in the words of John Galt from Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged , when asked by government what to do to save the country , the answer was “get out of my way”.

I have no time for unfair employers, but its nightmare and stressful in this country to be in business at times.

On http://www.business.gov.au they should put up to start a business you have to relinquish a lot of your human rights. You will have to sacrifice so much of time with your family, as we have systems to make it so hard for you.

Why do so many big companies employee’s their on the floor production staff via labor hire places, is because the lawns to do so direct are too hard.

We need an SME party ( for employer’s and employees of SME’s) , these two major parties are useless.

Downsizing employer
Downsizing employer
3 years ago

Very well said
I have employed hundreds of people over 30 years
I never w employ only four people
I’m not interested in expanding businesses anymore
Amongst other things paying employment fines of payroll tax made me become quite disillusioned and cynical
It’s a national disgrace that many of our young people can’t find work today
It’s time to drain the swamp

Rohan Baker
Rohan Baker
3 years ago

I think drain the billabong is more apt.

But this is what happens when you load a regulatory organ from just one side of the spectrum. FWA is now just the legal arm of the ACTU. It’s ” for the werkers, to protect their jerbs” and little else.

I see today’s listing from the SDA on the 4 year review, is now demanding that leave be given for blood and marrow donors. WTF? Since when has giving blood now been an employment right to have paid leave?

T.J . Antipodes
T.J . Antipodes
3 years ago
Reply to  Rohan Baker

Read Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand ( reprinted 50 times) and the collapse of the 20th century motor company. The employer becomes responsible for all, but has no rights

Michael Ratner
Michael Ratner
3 years ago

My very best wishes to Graeme Watson. It’s been a long time coming and maybe at long last someone will stop passing the buck and address the Very real concerns of Small Business.
It is the most lop sided authority in that Small Business are behind the 8 ball from the beginning.
Of course there are some good reasons for this commission if it was run effectively but whilst there might be some employers who need a bit of coaching, please let us run our business without the constant threat of blackmail hanging over our heads.

T.J . Antipodes
T.J . Antipodes
3 years ago

SME’s need to get together and really hassle the hell out of federal and state governments,.

We are being screwed.

if they made life simpler they would have more tax receipts.

So much of what they do works against a more prosperous nation.If they dont get the SME’s sector rolling , forget being a 1st world nation.

This country is backward in so many area’s and is on the precipice of sliding a long way backwards.

Tan
Tan
3 years ago

That’s what I thought about australia compared to singapore where I was born and contemplating of moving back to run a business there and get better future for the kids education and career .

PhredE
PhredE
3 years ago

But self-interest of the members of the electorate precludes government doing anything distasteful against ‘the little man’, now, and for the rest of time.
Derryn, Pauline, and the others, now want re-election, and tough love, bitter medicine, is rejected for short-term satisfaction.
The seeds of societal corrosion have already taken root and are splitting the bed-rock apart.

Tan
Tan
3 years ago

I quit running low margin small business with up to 10 employees after 2 years to avoid paying more too much for CGT as there are basically too much “risks and costs than profits and I’m still paying for GST Owing !! Australia is only good for big margin business to be able to employe people and forget about Low margin business that must employ even 1 person .

T.J . Antipodes
T.J . Antipodes
3 years ago
Reply to  Tan

Good for importers, but not good if you try and make something.

Jan Deane
Jan Deane
3 years ago

Unpredictable decisions is right. I worked for an organisation with an employee who was sacked for high level OH&S breaches, continually taking home a company vehicle after being told many times that this was against company policy and stealing thousands of dollars of equipment. After being sacked, he immediately lodged a claim with the FWC and at mediation, we had to pay him $4000 to get rid of the claim. Complete scam and we pay for this body out of our taxes.