IR Bill finds few friends in the business community

A STRAW poll of some of the State’s biggest employers by Business News has indicated uniform opposition to the Government’s draft Industrial Relations Reform Bill.

Clough Limited chairman Harold Clough said it was clear the Government did not have the interests of the WA economy in mind, but rather that of the unions.

“I think they (the Government) are being driven by the unions and the unions have got their own agenda,” he said.

“It’s really just a question of keeping union numbers up. It has nothing to do with productivity.

“The unions have got a real problem remaining relevant and this is a way to address that.”

Austal Ships founder and chairman John Rothwell said he was deeply concerned about the impact on the shipbuilding industry and the 1,400 Austal employees. He said the unions already had indicated that they would be entering Austal Ships the day the legislation becomes law.

“We all know their (the unions) history and it is not beyond them to go in the workplace and look at safety issues and make a song and dance about it,” he said.

“I find it totally unnecessary that they are going to over turn the workplace agreements.

“The unions have already indicated that they will be on our door the minute the legislation is in.

“We have 1,400 people employed by the Austal Group in Perth, so that is quite a good potential for the unions. They would love to have a substantial amount of those people signed up.

“If we had a union yard and, for any reason the union decides to close the yard, it would cripple us. It is time for the Labor Party to be looking at what businesses do in this State. I haven’t seen too much of a sign of that yet.”

Challenge Bank CEO and Chamber of Commerce and Industry of WA president Tony Howarth was equally concerned with the effect industrial relations changes would have on the State.

“The concern that I have is that this legislation substantially reverses the inroads that have been made over the past decade,” Mr Howarth said.

“It really is lower common denominator stuff.

“This is not about taking the legislation and making it better. They are actually taking out a bit of good legislation, throwing it out and replacing it with something bad.”

RAC CEO and Committee of Economic Development of Australia WA chairman Terry Agnew said that, although the RAC was unlikely to be directly affected by the changes because the employees were all on negotiated collective agreement, the economy would suffer, particularly in the mining sector.

“I would have thought it would constrain the economy,” he said.

“The question is whether the changes would have an impact on forecasts that BIS Shrapnel has put out.”

BIS Shrapnel is forecasting growth of 3 per cent for the 2002-03 financial year.

Mr Howarth also pointed out that the Government was acting irresponsibly by introducing laws that will push wages up.

“The Government should also be very concerned, because if we get a blowout in wage claims it will be the taxpayer who will have to pay,” Mr Howarth said.

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