01/10/2009 - 00:00

Industry concerns over IR decision

01/10/2009 - 00:00

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THE federal government's modernisation of the award system was designed to encompass those sectors already covered by an award under the one system. However, an Australian Industrial Relations Commission decision last week means a greater number of profes

THE federal government's modernisation of the award system was designed to encompass those sectors already covered by an award under the one system.


However, an Australian Industrial Relations Commission decision last week means a greater number of professional employees, including lawyers, human resources professionals and accountants, could be covered by an award for the first time.


"The federal government did not originally intend to pick up new people with these changes," Chamber of Commerce and Industry of WA manager industrial relations policy, Marcia Kuhne said.


She added the release of the new draft Miscellaneous Modern Award was "another worrying sign" the award modernisation process would impose higher costs and more administrative burdens on local business.


"CCI is concerned the proposed new award system will result in an increase in costs for business, and create a significant administrative burden by forcing employers to record the hours their staff work," she said.


"It is important the transition to the new regime be managed carefully to ensure businesses understand what is required of them, and give them time to prepare for change."


Ms Kuhne said that with more than 1,500 awards set to be reduced to 130 by the end of the year, it was important the new awards did not detract from the government's objective to simplify the industrial relations landscape.


Australian Industry Group chief executive, Heather Ridout, said it was vital that those professions currently award-free remained that way.


"The draft Miscellaneous Modern Award...needs to be very carefully analysed to ensure that it will not lead to an extension in award coverage and consequent operational and cost difficulties for industry," she said.


While Workplace Relations Minister Julia Gillard took heed to hospitality industry requests to separate cafes, restaurants and catering businesses from hotels and create a separate award, some calls for penalty rate changes have been rejected.


Restaurant and Catering Australia lobbied to substantially reduce penalty rates for hospitality industry employees, and in some cases, eliminate penalties altogether.


The industrial umpire has recommended a 15 per cent penalty rate be applied to casual employees working between midnight and 7am weekdays, and a 25 per cent penalty for work on a Saturday, in addition to current penalty rates.


The commission also recommended casuals working on a Sunday should receive a 50 per cent penalty, on top of their usual 25 per cent loading.

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