Feds change multi-employer bargaining to try to pass workplace bill

The federal government has made concessions on its controversial industrial relations legislation in a bid to get it through parliament before Christmas.

Workplace Relations Minister Tony Burke has agreed to amend the bill amid ongoing discussions with business groups who remain strongly opposed to an expansion of multi-employer bargaining – the element the most controversial of the far-reaching legislation.

Despite the concessions, business representatives remain unconvinced, calling parts of the bill “bad policy” and calling for the legislation to be delayed until it can be thoroughly scrutinized by the Senate.

Mr Burke said the government would require a majority of employees in each workplace to vote in favor of multi-employer bargaining before a deal could take place.

“One of the concerns, which was a reasonable concern, was … one employer where there are a lot of staff, another where there are a lot less staff, and effectively, the biggest workplaces crushing the vote of the most small,” Mr Burke told Sky News. on Sunday.

“That’s going to be changed, so that to be part of a deal, where you get the majority of staff, it’s employer by employer where it counts.

“It puts an end to the argument that you’ll end up with workplaces that didn’t want to be part of a deal, but either chained themselves together or didn’t want to be part of industrial action.

“If you vote against any of the steps at this corporate level, you’re not in it.”

Labor wants the bill to pass this year, arguing the proposed changes will help drive up wages and make the company bargaining system fairer for workers.

Pocock asks for more time to review the bill

Although the government has the numbers to push the bill through the lower house, it faces some hurdles in the Senate, with key MPs calling for more time to consider the bill while expressing concern over the magnitude of the changes and the potential unintended consequences.

Independent ACT Senator David Pocock said the government should split the bill to allow non-controversial changes to pass while giving more time and attention to the more controversial elements.

“I don’t want to prevent low-paid workers, especially in highly feminized sectors, from getting a pay rise,” he said.

“I want to make sure that we apply this legislation correctly.

“The bill was introduced just over a week ago and we have already seen a number of significant changes signaled by the government.

“That tells me we need more time.”

Senator Pocock said the legislation had been “very rushed” and he was concerned about the lack of time given to the Senate to consult.

“It’s not about delaying, it’s about having the minimum amount of time needed to do the job I was elected to do properly,” said Senator Pocock.

“I want to work constructively with the government to make sure this bill moves wages, improves equality in the workplace and also avoids any unintended consequences.”

However, the government faces some hurdles in the Senate, with key interbank MKs calling for more time to consider the bill while expressing concern about the scope of the changes and potential unintended consequences.

Business Council of Australia chief executive Jennifer Westacott welcomed the government’s decision to cut some of the bill’s “most harmful” elements, but argued that “big problems remain”.

“It’s good that the government agrees that the system should be fundamentally democratic and that workplaces that are already negotiating should be able to continue to do so, but we’ll have to see exactly how these changes work,” Ms Westacott said.

“We welcome the government’s concessions and will continue to work in good faith to address some of the other big issues with this bill, including a risk of lowest common denominator for wages and increased complexity that could delay wage increases. .”

The Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry said the proposed changes did little to address their fundamental concerns.

“Pushing multi-employer bargaining across sectors without clear definitions and boundaries can only lead to unsustainable pay outcomes not supported by productivity,” said chief executive Andrew Mckellar.

“It’s bad policy and it’s worse economically.

“We call on the government to delay passage of the bill so that the Senate can undertake an open and transparent review.

“At a minimum, the government should split the bill and remove the multi-employer provisions.”

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Business Council of Australia warns multi-employer bargaining could hamper productivity

Independent MP Kate Chaney called Mr Burke’s concession “reasonable”, but said while the bill sought to do “good things”, she would not support it in its current form.

“Multi-employer bargaining for the sustained flow is a good thing, these low-wage industries, and it may well move wages…in childcare, eldercare, heavily feminized industries,” said she told ABC’s Insiders.

“I am concerned about the overbreadth and extension of multi-employer bargaining to any group deemed to have a common interest, as determined by the Fair Work Commission.

“I think I would resist it; I would vote against it at this time because of this overreach.”