"The third tranche of workplace relations law changes erroneously titled the 'Closing the Loopholes' Bill should be rejected by Parliament and the focus shifted in Canberra to measures that promote productivity, innovation, employment and rewarding jobs," Innes Willox, Chief Executive of the national employer association Ai Group said today.
"The Government is proposing major changes to core aspects of our workplace relations system. They are changes that will, collectively, impact most sectors of the economy. It is crucial that Parliament properly scrutinises the changes and isn't misguided by efforts to downplay the adverse impacts of the changes or their significance.
"Before the ink is dry the government is already backing away from aspects of the Bill by foreshadowing exemptions for small business in order to secure parliamentary support for what would be flawed legislation. Deficiencies in the Bill that render it unfair for small business mean that it will be bad for all business.
"We thank the Government for addressing some of the issues raised during the consultation process but it simply hasn't gone far enough in fixing deeply flawed aspects of its proposal. The end result adds further complexity to an already byzantine workplace relations system and makes it harder for businesses to hire staff and manage their workplaces.
"The same job same pay policy will make it harder for employers to get the workers they need. The measures amount to an unfair and unjustified attack on labour hire employers as well as the businesses and workers that depend upon the sector.
"Crucially, the Government hasn't gone far enough in ensuring that a change that is directed at closing a 'labour hire loophole' isn't able to be used by unions to challenge and interfere with a raft of other commercial arrangements between businesses that haven't traditionally been considered 'labour hire'.
"Changes to the definition of who is a casual employee and proposed new casual conversion measures will radically alter the way casual employment arrangements have long operated in Australia. They will create greater uncertainty and risk for employers who will hire fewer casual staff and be less prepared to offer those they do engage regular work. While this will be welcomed by the union movement it will hurt both business and employees.
"The changes will drastically limit the ability of employers to offer new casual employees the kind of arrangements currently commonly in place and which often suit workers.
"Make no mistake, there will be vast numbers of casual employees who will have their livelihoods put a risk by these changes if they see the light of day. Any contention that these changes won't lead to major disruption in the labour market and to detrimental impacts on workers and employees is fanciful.
"The experiment of giving the Fair Work Commission new powers to regulate 'employee-like work' or the 'gig economy' must not put at risk the viability of contracting arrangements that are often genuinely valued by workers or disturb contracting arrangements currently in place across a range of industries that are operating without controversy.
"The Government needs to be clear about precisely which contractors will be caught by the proposed changes and what it expects the cost will be to the broader community changes.
"The proposal to give the Fair Work Commission sweeping new powers to re-regulate the Road Transport Industry clearly amounts to an attempt to revive the disaster that was the Road Safety Remuneration Tribunal in all but name only. The measures in the Bill that are purportedly directed at avoiding a repeat of past mistakes are wholly inadequate and any contention that there is broad industry support for the kind of change proposed is simply inaccurate. Industry should be deeply alarmed by the approach that has been taken to this issue in the Bill.
"While new 'wage theft' measures would focus on those few 'intentionally underpaying' this approach does nothing to address the root cause of underpayments, the complexity of the system.
"The Parliament now has an opportunity to reject or seriously curtail the unnecessary, unfair and economy damaging changes in this latest Bill. The Government must be willing to continue to address concerns that are raised about its proposal now that the details have been made public.
"Ai Group will be contributing to any Senate or Joint Parliamentary hearings into the Bill to encourage MPs to reject the measures as currently proposed," Mr Willox said.
Tony Melville – 0419 190 347