Statement by Innes Willox, Chief Executive of the national employer association, Ai Group

The proposed changes to Australia's workplaces introduced to federal parliament today risk taking the country down a path of more strikes, fewer jobs, centralised decision making and less trust within our enterprises.

The legislation is fundamentally flawed and needs to be rethought and reworked. Given its implications for our economy, employers and workers, this process cannot be rushed or be the subject of political trade-offs.

For employers, the fundamental concerns with the Bill include:

1. Changes designed to enable widespread strikes and other industrial action in support of multi-employer agreements.

2. The proposed expansion of multi-employer bargaining beyond what could reasonably be justified and absent sufficient safeguards to ensure that it won't impact sectors or employers that are already capable of bargaining at the enterprise level.

3. The proposed expanded capacity for the Fair Work Commission to arbitrate the content of workplace agreements that will only encourage unions to make unreasonable demands and risks, taking us back to a system of centralised setting of wages and conditions.

4. Changes to existing employee rights to request flexible working arrangements that would expose employers to litigation over rostering and working arrangements that should otherwise be resolved at the workplace level.

5. Changes to the BOOT (Better Off Overall Test) and agreement-making process that may be intended to improve the system but risk creating new problems.

6. A range of problems with the practical workability and fairness of aspects of the Bill that need to be worked through in detail.

Sustainable jobs and wage increases don’t come with a union gun being held to an employer’s head. To pass this bill after a rushed and unsatisfactory process which, in the end, has unfortunately catered to outdated and radical union demands would be a disaster for workers, small and large business employers and our economy.

To be clear, there is no serious or significant employer support for these proposals. This does nothing for productivity or growth. It would only threaten our decades of national prosperity which have been underpinned by a focus on supporting bargaining at our small and large enterprises.

Industry-wide bargaining and a centralised industrial system belong to an era of tariff walls, fixed currencies, picket lines and secondary boycotts.

In the budget, the government made clear our economy now faces extreme pressures. Turning our workplaces into conflict zones only threatens to make things much worse.

Employers look forward to further and fuller consultation. Artificial deadlines of having legislation finalised by the time parliament rises on 1 December are neither helpful nor appropriate given the importance of what is at stake.

Media enquiries

Wendy Larter – 0432 867 665