can we breathe new life into the reform of industrial relations?

We now have a problem of stagnant wages, as well as stagnant productivity. To achieve this, we must now tackle the drastic reduction in the coverage of company agreements in the private sector, which has fallen from one third to perhaps 9%. After the election, more should be achievable. The Fair Work Commission should be helped to work out rates charged in each price, so agreements can pick them up, taking into account the difficulty of the job. Maybe agreements can be audited at the expense of rewards before they go to an employee vote if the employer so requests, so that the Commission does some of the work that employers find difficult, like explain the agreement to employees. Three-quarters of their deals currently need to be changed (“commitments”) due to best overall test (BOOT), a truly startling statistic. We have to ensure that the Commission’s workload is reasonable.

Employers supported in their submissions the return of something like the more flexible “no disadvantage” test abolished in 2005, which would replace the BOOT requirement that “every potential employee covered by a reward…would be better off” with a lesser requirement that “it is not the case”. put employees at a disadvantage with regard to their conditions of employment”. This would be a throwback to the older, more pragmatic assessment of the overall overall effect of the agreement on employees versus the award, under which agreement coverage increased from 1992 to 2005 It would also require the government and employers to defeat what would be a determined and colorful national trade union campaign to protect workers’ rights.

The Coalition’s omnibus bill instead proposed to modify the test by requiring BOOT to be tested on the basis of actually engaged work patterns, in order to reduce the lengthy theoretical exploration of the possible negative effects of agreements that sometimes occurs when employers are trying to get their agreements approved. . It would be a huge help. It should be re-discussed, alongside the extension of project agreements to the lifetime of the project. Its success will depend on a moderate and practical focus in negotiations with unions and their perception of the resulting package as helping employees. There is a community of interest because unions also want to develop more beneficial agreements for employees.

Labor relations is one of the most volatile areas of public policy, but many exciting changes in the workplace have been brought about through a moderate, hands-on approach. A more pragmatic Commission unfair dismissal system replaced a contentious judicial system in 1996, and the “Serbian quagmire” of incomprehensibly technical exemptions from unfair dismissal laws was replaced with streamlined exemptions in 2009. These changes came on both sides of politics. There are other problems, such as the sometimes very prejudicial behavior of unrepresented parties. We should set ourselves the goal of simplifying the system so that ordinary workers can enjoy their work and their wages and employers can carry out their activities productively.

All in all, we must remember that a penchant for free market solutions is what made Australia successful, as part of a mixed economy with equally entrenched working traditions. This is why reformers prefer to avoid “sound and fury mean nothing” and try to put forward substantive proposals. Others have a different take and appeal to the Australian public. Their views must be respected.

Reg Hamilton is Adjunct Professor, College of Business, School of Business and Law, Central Queensland University, and former Deputy Chairman of the Fair Work Commission.

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