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EEA law delay welcomed

SMALL business groups are welcoming the delay to Labor’s plans to repeal WA’s workplace agreements legislation.

WA Labour Relations Minister John Kobelke had planned to have Labor’s industrial legislation in place by July 1.

That legislation will move WA’s industrial relations system back towards a collective bargaining regime and repeal the 1993 Workplace Agreements Act.

However, Mr Kobelke has now admitted that the legislation will not be ready in time.

While it will still be introduced into the first sitting of the new Parliament next month, the new law is not likely to be passed until September or October.

That means workplace agreements signed after March 21 could still be in effect until April.

WA Small Business and Enterprise Association executive director Philip Achurch said the longer nothing changed, the better it would be for small to medium-sized enterprises.

“There is quite a considerable amount of worry out there regarding what will happen,” Mr Achurch said.

“As we see it Labor’s new legislation will lead to a considerable wages cost increase.”

To give employers flexibility, Mr Kobelke said Labor would be introducing Employee Employer Agreements.

These agreements will be tied to Award conditions instead of the Minimum Conditions of Employment that underpinned workplace agreements.

It is understood the new legislation will allow many Award conditions to be traded off but employees on EEAs are not to be worse off than they would be on the relevant award for their industry.

Employers want to see how these EEAs will be structured.

Mr Achurch said small retail outlets such as independent supermarkets operating seven days a week would be among those hit hardest by the new legislation.

Award penalty rates for Sunday and evening work will force up the cost of wages.

“Small businesses were able to trade off penalty rates through Workplace Agreements,” Mr Achurch said.

“The flexibility for employers and, indeed, many employees is taken away.”

Combined Small Business Associations of WA president Oliver Moon said the Labor push was all about pushing employees into unions.

He believes the new legislation will be biased to push employers to accept collective agreements.

But a collective agreement is only legally binding if a union is party to it.

“The idea of unions forcing an agreement onto a deli that employs people is preposterous.”

Both Mr Achurch and Mr Moon believe many small business owners who had been operating on workplace workplace agreements would ignore the new law.

Mr Moon said before workplace agreements were introduced, the vast majority of small businesses operated outside awards.

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