Business groups have called for an independent review of Australia’s Fair Work laws, preferably conducted by the Productivity Commission.
A national meeting of more than 20 employer and business organisations, held in Melbourne, has highlighted the level of dissatisfaction surrounding the nation’s industrial relations system.
The meeting, convened by the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, was attended by IR executives from state-based chambers of commerce and other industry associations.
A resolution was passed endorsing participation in the Federal Government’s 2012 review, but it was noted that the Qantas dispute risked taking focus away from wider impacts on SMEs.
Following the meeting, ACCI chief executive Peter Anderson said the Fair Work laws are impeding business efficiency, and imposing higher costs and red tape on small business.
“The organisations confirmed that enough credible data was coming in to make a meaningful and substantive contribution to the 2012 review,” Anderson said.
“This will be done collectively through ACCI, and by individual associations in sectors and regions.”
According to Anderson, the organisations are also of the view that the review must be independent, wide ranging, and preferably conducted by the Productivity Commission.
“The value of these discussion[s] was to highlight that despite high profile cases like Qantas, most employers regulated by the system remained small and medium businesses,” he said.
“Vital as it is to fix problems with excessive union power over strikes and bargaining, important SME issues also exist.”
“[These include] higher labour costs under awards, new adverse action and unfair dismissal litigation, and the compliance nightmare when fair work laws are added to other regulation.”
The ACCI has called on both the Government and the Opposition to acknowledge the “pressing need for change” because, without amendment, the laws could be a “slow burn” on the economy.
“It is clear that both the Opposition and the Government need to deal more substantively with some aspects of the law,” Anderson said.
Anderson said the Opposition has been timid on the issue, claiming business needs an alternative government that can make the necessary changes but also “carry community opinion with them”.
“There is still a long way to go on that,” he said.
According to a spokesperson for Workplaces Relation Minister Chris Evans, the review will indeed be conducted independently but will not involve the Productivity Commission.
Meanwhile, Opposition leader Tony Abbott said the Coalition will not reveal its policy until closer to the election.