Tuesday 22nd Aug, 2017

Ferguson leads refreshed push for IR reforms

Rail worker manufacturing. Photo: RailGallery.com.au / Courtesy of Bombardier
Photo: RailGallery.com.au / Courtesy of Bombardier

Former Australian Council of Trade Unions boss Martin Ferguson has backed a push from the resource industry for a “new round” of reforms in workplace relations legislation.

Ferguson, who served as resources minister under Labor, and was once one of the strongest voices for the union movement in Parliament House, launched the Australian Minerals Council’s calls for a new round of cuts to union powers in a speech to the Sydney Institute this week.

“Neither side of politics helps Australia’s employees or its employers by running scare campaigns on workplace relations – nor by running scared of workplace relations reforms,” he said.

“It’s time to take workplace relations reform out of the deep freezer.”

The Minerals Council’s new program, detailed by its deputy chief executive David Byers on August 8, calls for ways to help businesses “tap into new sources of economic growth, find more productive ways of working and create the rewarding and skilled jobs of the future”.

“Australia’s economy, workplaces and jobs have been changing over recent years – and we now face rapid technological advances with major implications for the world of work,” Byers said.

“Our workplace relations framework needs to allow employers and employees to maximise the opportunities these changes will bring, rather than acting as a barrier to the improved competitiveness and productivity, and the new investment needed to boost jobs and living standards.”

The Council’s priority reforms include limiting the use of protected industrial action to influence business decisions, and to ensure enterprise agreements deal with direct employment matters.

It also wants to refocus the Fair Work Act’s ‘adverse action’ provisions “so they do not act as unreasonable barriers to business decision-making and performance management processes”.

“Introducing more balanced workplace right of entry rules,” is another listed priority reform.

“The mining industry already provides some of Australia’s best-paid and most highly-skilled jobs for blue-collar and white-collar workers alike,” Byrne wrote.

“The average mining employee earns $140,000 a year, making mining the highest-paying industry in Australia – and mining has had the fastest wages growth of any industry over the last decade.

“With the mining boom moving from the investment phase to the production phase, Australia will reap the economic benefits of investments the industry has already made for years to come.

“But we now need to ensure our workplace relations system does not create impediments to new investment in an environment where mining companies must compete harder to finance the new projects that will create the jobs and growth of the future.”