Industry has savaged the federal government’s planned changes to the Fair Work Act, telling a Senate inquiry the “backwards” legislation will hurt business, limit productivity and hand more power to unions.
Business lobby groups including the Chamber of Commerce and Industry, the Australian Industry Group and the Master Builders Association have all picked holes in the legislation, identifying a list of problems that need to be addressed.
The issues surround changes to right of entry provisions for unions, restrictions on changing rostered hours, enshrining overtime and penalty rates into law and workplace bullying complaints being handled by the Fair Work Commission.
“We are very concerned that business has not been consulted on these changes,” CCI manager of employer relations consulting Paul Moss said.
“This is despite the fact that these amendments seek to further swing the pendulum in the favour of unions without regard to the impact these changes will have on the ability for employers to manage their business and continue to create and support jobs.”
Mr Moss said the proposed legislation would make it harder for businesses to operate, thereby increasing costs, reducing output and weakening productivity.
AiGroup chief executive Innes Willox said the content of the bill was “extremely lopsided” and did not even attempt to strike a balance in addressing issues of concern to industry.
“Employers’ issues of concern are not addressed in the Bull, and the absence of any attempt at balance is glaring,” Mr Willox said in a statement.
“Parliament should reject this unbalanced Bill which would have a substantial, negative impact on industry.”
Master Builders Association Wilhelm Harnisch said cost implications for business, particularly small business, had been largely ignored by the legislators.
Mr Harnisch said it was “grossly unacceptable” for the government to wait until the May federal budget to release the Bill’s cost implications for taxpayers and businesses.
“This Bill will have significant cost implications for the building and construction industry and government funding for the Fair Work Commission and possibly other agencies,” Mr Harnisch said.
“The building industry rejects changes to legislation which increase the operating costs for business without at least providing an associated productivity offset.”
Mr Harnisch said Master Builders was particularly concerned about the implications of the bullying provisions in the Bill, which he said would force employers to establish new compliance systems or be left open to expensive bullying complaints.
“Implementing new compliance processes is costly and diverts valuable resources from an employer’s core business of building infrastructure, generating jobs and contributing to the economy,” he said.
“Without a proper screening process to validate potential bullying claims, the Bill will fuel an enormous number of spurious claims to be heard by the Fair Work Commission.
“There is no disincentive for disgruntled employees to submit a claim as a measure to garner ‘go away’ money in the case of employment exit.”