30/01/2015 - 14:54

Industry groups want IR reform

30/01/2015 - 14:54

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Industry groups are at the vanguard of a renewed push for workplace reform following Productivity Commission issues papers released as part of a broad review of the labour market.

Industry groups want IR reform
CONFLICT: The construction industry lost more working days to IR disputes than any other.

Industry groups are at the vanguard of a renewed push for workplace reform following Productivity Commission issues papers released as part of a broad review of the labour market.

The papers sparked debate on penalty rates and the minimum wage, but the federal government is still working to implement its short term agenda.

The Australian Mines and Metals Association, which represents companies including Fortescue Metals Group and Macmahon Contractors, has asked the opposition and crossbench to support changes currently before the Senate, including the re-establishment of the Australian Building and Construction Commission in place of the Gillard government’s Fair Work Building and Construction Inspectorate.

Debate to establish a Registered Organisations Commission is also planned to be a priority when the Senate resumes.

AMMA chief executive Steve Knott said the changes addressed clear barriers to competition and productivity.

“Australia cannot afford to live with the increasingly flawed and impractical workplace laws penned by Julia Gillard and the ACTU prior to the GFC and the realities we now face,” he said.

“We cannot wait months or years for critical improvements to the current workplace system.”

The AMMA said it expected resources exports to fall 10 per cent, while the pipeline of major projects had shrunk by $118 billion.

The pressure to restore the ABCC comes after damaging findings for the Construction, Forestry, Minerals and Energy Union in the Royal Commission into Trade Union Governance and Corruption’s interim report in December.

The CFMEU is mentioned more than 1,700 times in the two public volumes of the report, which went as far as recommending evaluation of criminal charges against CFMEU officials for threats and blackmail, among other crimes.

Meanwhile, Australian Bureau of Statistics data for the September quarter revealed that the construction industry, one of Western Australia’s largest employers, was the worst sector nationally for time lost to industrial disputes.

For every 1,000 employees, 18 days were lost due to industrial disputes in the industry for the three-month period, the ABS said.

Metal product manufacturing followed, at just 4.7 days per 1,000 workers.

Penalty rates

The Australian Hotels Association (WA) has also spoken out about potential reform, with chief executive Bradley Woods writing recently that penalty rates were obsolete.

“The social and cultural landscape of Australian society has changed dramatically over the last 40-plus years,” Mr Woods said.

“No longer do shops close early on a Saturday, no longer is there a typical Monday to Friday working week and no longer is Saturday a day for sport and Sunday an exclusive day of rest.

“The international economy has globalised and never sleeps, but Australia’s award system still bases its penalty regime around a Monday to Friday working week and has failed to keep up.

“Thousands of Australian jobs are being lost and hours of work are being reduced because some businesses cannot afford to open when penalty rates apply on weekends, evenings or early mornings.”

Mr Woods said the hospitality industry was the hardest hit by the regulation.

The government has said it will seek an election mandate before making any changes to penalty rates.

Accommodation and food services employed around 80,000 Western Australians last year, according to the ABS.

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