“The research paper released today by the Hon Reg Hamilton, who has just retired as a Deputy President of the Fair Work Commission (FWC), makes a constructive and well-researched contribution to the public debate about reforms to enterprise bargaining laws," Innes Willox, Chief Executive of the national employer association Ai Group, said today.

“One thing that everyone can agree upon is that the enterprise bargaining system is broken and in urgent need of repair. The system is ‘withering on the vine’. Every year more and more businesses are abandoning agreement-making and this is not good for productivity or wages growth.

“The Hon Reg Hamilton is well placed to understand the problems given his lengthy service as Deputy President of the Commission. As he has identified, the current Better Off Overall Test (BOOT) is leading to nearly three quarters of agreements that are lodged for approval, not being approved in the terms agreed upon between the employer and its employees, but rather with undertakings.

“Ai Group recently released an Enterprise Agreements Policy Paper which argues that with a few sensible reforms, the enterprise agreement system can once again play a key role in delivering higher productivity, improved remuneration to employees and more competitive businesses. Ai Group’s proposals include:

  • Simplifying the BOOT by ensuring that hypothetical types and patterns of work that are unlikely to be engaged in are not taken into account when the FWC assesses whether employees would be better off under a proposed agreement.
  • Simplifying the requirements for the FWC to be satisfied that genuine agreement has been reached.
  • Simplifying the requirement for employers to explain the terms of a proposed enterprise agreement to employees prior to the vote.

“The above sensible reforms are in the interests of all parties.

“As the Hon Reg Hamilton’s paper demonstrates, many worthwhile industrial relations reforms have been introduced with the support of both employer groups and unions. His paper proposes modest reforms, not radical changes, and this is the solution needed. The enterprise bargaining problems are widely recognised and readily fixed. These are reforms that all parties should get behind”, said Mr Willox.

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