Battle for industrial relations changes continues

Business groups are telling the Productivity Commission inquiry into the workplace relations that Australia needs a simple, flexible system that will help create jobs.

Commenting on the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry’s (ACCI) submission to the inquiry, Kate Carnell AO, CEO of the ACCI, said, “With nearly 800,000 Australians unemployed, including nearly 300,000 young people, we need to find ways to make it easier for businesses, particularly small businesses, to hire staff.”

She added that it is not enough to “tinker around the edges” and that Australia needs to move to a flexible system for the 21st century.

“The time is right to consider the continuing role awards should play. We propose a simple, flexible safety net built around the minimum wage and industry rates of pay and legislated minimum standards,” Carnell added.

“There needs to be a full suite of agreement-making options so employers and employees can agree upon suitable arrangements. Parties would be free to include award terms if they agree to them.”

Among other things, the Australian Industry Group's (Ai Group) submission to the inquiry contains a detailed plan to ensure that enterprise agreements are more productive and flexible.

“Many companies are locked into unproductive and costly enterprise agreement provisions negotiated in more profitable times which are imposing major barriers to productivity, efficiency and competitiveness. This major problem needs a multi-faced solution as is outlined in Ai Group's submission", Ai Group Chief Executive Innes Willox said.

The submission proposes that 'Productivity Terms' should become mandatory terms for enterprise agreements, just like 'Flexibility Terms', 'Consultation Terms' and 'Dispute Settling Terms' currently are.

The ACTU cautioned against the social effects of this approach and added that it would fight any move to cut the minimum wage, penalty rates and rights at work.

“There are millions of Australians who cannot afford the sudden pay cut that will come with having their penalty rates or the minimum wage cut,” said ACTU President Ged Kearney (pictured).

“Penalty rates are part of take home wages that hard working Australians rely on to pay their rent or mortgage and put food on the table.

“Cutting penalty rates or the minimum wage has nothing to do with job creation or productivity – it is about cutting people’s pay packets.

“The Coalition Government is using the Productivity Commission inquiry into rights at work in an attempt to cut penalty rates, abolish the minimum wage, bring back unfair individual contracts and swing even more power to the employers.”

Image: ACTU