Make it easier to sack workers and cut penalties and fix the long-service leave ‘mess’, says Ai Group
March 16, 2015
Bosses should be able to sack workers more easily, long-service leave is a mess and should be reformed, it should be easier for penalty rates to be cut and strikes should be less frequent, according to one of Australia’s biggest employer groups.
And in its submission to the Productivity Commission’s review of the Fair Work laws that recommends dramatic changes to Australia’s industrial landscape, the Ai Group has also called for greater flexibility for employers and employees to enter common law contracts and sign up to individual flexibility agreements, an end to industry-wide agreements, voluntary rather than mandatory collective bargaining and “productivity terms” to be a mandatory part of enterprise agreements.
In its sweeping wish list of reforms, the Ai Group also argues the cost of restructuring businesses is too high, the award system should be simplified and enterprise bargaining agreements, which are locking unproductive wages, should have specific productivity improvement requirements.
The release of Ai Group’s submission comes as another major business group, the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, prepares to square off against the Australian Council of Trade Unions on Tuesday in a debate at at the National Press Club.
Ai Group chief executive Innes Willox said Australia’s Fair Work laws were holding the country back and “imposing barriers to productivity improvement, competitiveness and investment, and it is not providing the adaptability that employers and employees need”.
“Australia has become a high-cost country. The community regularly hears about plant closures and decisions to off-shore, but there are far too few announcements about major new investments,” he said.
“Australia’s productivity shortfall needs to be addressed and workforce participation must increase if we are to continue to deliver the incomes and standards of living that the Australian community has come to expect.”
On employee termination, the submission states that it is too difficult and costly for employers to sack both poor performing and redundant employees, while changes are also need to discourage unmeritorious and speculative unfair dismissal claims.
On penalty rates, the submission specifically calls for section 134 of the Fair Work Act – which “reinforce[s] penalty rates in awards” and makes it “harder for employers to succeed with arguments in the Fair Work Commission to reduce penalty rates in appropriate cases” to be repealed.
And on long-service leave, the Ai Group argues that a national long-service leave standard of 13 weeks for 15 years service should be implemented to override state and territory laws, which vary.
Union right of entry laws also need to be tightened, the Group says, with laws regarding the construction industry needing to be passed without delay.
The long-awaited Productivity Commission review of the Fair Work Act was launched earlier this year.
Soon after, Employment Minister Eric Abetz ruled out the government seeking changes to the minimum wage or penalty rates, no matter what the Commission recommends.