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Asciano weighs in on workplace relations

Pacific National - Credit Asciano

Asciano has voiced support for the Fair Work Amendment (Bargaining Processes) Bill 2014 that would mandate that productivity improvement discussions take place during enterprise bargaining agreements.

The parent company of Pacific National said industrial action is a somewhat Marxist approach to the relationship between employers and employees, in its recently published submission to the Productivity Commission’s Workplace Inquiry.

But Asciano accepted the notion that disputes are a bargaining tool that may reduce power imbalances between parties.

“Asciano recognises that the efficiency and quality of enterprise agreement negotiations to a large extent is in the hands of the parties negotiating agreements,” the company said.

“[But] there are aspects of the bargaining framework as set out in the Fair Work Act which hamper efficient and equitable negotiations.”

The company said it believes legislating productivity gains in enterprise bargaining should be approached with caution. However, the processes in place need to ensure genuine agreement is reached.

That said, Asciano voiced support for the requirement that the Fair Work Commission, when approving enterprise agreements, be satisfied productivity improvements were discussed during bargaining.

Complexities arising from negotiating process − as flagged by Asciano – include multiple stakeholders. Negotiators may have to manage multiple and potentially competing interests; trade-offs (e.g. between rostering, wage increases and other flexibilities); and maintenance of constructive relationships between parties.

Asciano suggests the Fair Work Commission give greater consideration to supporting negotiations beyond an approval and dispute resolution role.

The Productivity Commission is currently carrying out an inquiry into the industrial relations laws.

Initial submissions were due by March 13; however details of submission have only recently been published by the Productivity Commission.

A draft report is due in July.

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