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IR reforms must fix bargaining, not abandon it

Thursday, September 1, 2022

New directions on industrial relations announced by Employment and Workplace Relations Minister Tony Burke will be critical in restoring common sense to Australia’s IR system, however unanswered questions remain around the operation of proposed changes to multi-employer agreements.

“The veiled push for a return to industry-wide bargaining under the guise of multi-employer agreements is a distraction from the fundamental challenges miring our industrial relations system,” ACCI chief executive Andrew McKellar said.

“The ACTU must be transparent about the changes they propose to multi-employer bargaining given it is already clearly allowed under the Fair Work Act.

“We know that businesses and workers aren’t pursuing multi-employer agreements currently, so why are we looking for solutions in this area?

“Under the ACTU’s proposal, it also remains unclear the size and kind of firms that would have access to multi-employer agreements, and whether this will be restricted to the lower paid.

“While the Chamber remains open to considering sensible changes to multi-employer bargaining, we would be very concerned if this became a ploy to unionise small business, leading to increased industrial action.

“Instead, bargaining at an enterprise level should be fundamental to our industrial relations system, growing pay packets, improving job security, and boosting international competitiveness.

“It’s promising to see Minister Burke announce plans to address the increasingly unworkable, impractical, and unreliable enterprise bargaining system to ensure agreement making is more practical and fairer.

“In particular, changes to the better off overall test are very welcome, ensuring that the test applies to a workplace’s actual circumstances, not hypotheticals that would never be part of business’ operation.

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