TIME FOR SERIOUS DEBATE ON WORKPLACE RELATIONS

For too long, debate on Australia's current workplace relations system has been seemingly off limits.

This wall of silence has not served employers, employees or the unemployed in Australia well, especially in an economy marked by sub-trend growth, mediocre productivity and unnecessarily high unemployment.

The Productivity Commission (PC) draft report on Australia's workplace relations framework released today can and should be the catalyst for a meaningful debate on our workplace laws and regulations. 

The Commission has identified a number of deficiencies in the current regime which require reform, including many identified in the submission to the inquiry by the Minerals Council of Australia.

For example, the PC has found that:

  • The enterprise bargaining process can throw up unnecessary procedural 'trip-wires' for employers which add to costs and delays in reaching agreements
  • There is scope to remove system complexity and to offer greater flexibility to employers and employees alike consistent with strong minimum employment standards
  • Unions should not be allowed to impose restrictions on management use of contractors and labour hire as part of agreement making
  • There is scope to reform unfair dismissals and general protections provisions so as to reduce the number of frivolous and vexatious claims
  • There is scope to improve access to individual flexibility arrangements (IFAs) and the value of IFAs has been diminished by existing conditions in the current system
  • Bargaining arrangements for large, capital-intensive 'greenfields' projects can be improved in ways that provide greater certainty to those undertaking major investments 
  • Steps should be taken to ensure aborted strikes and brief stoppages are not used by unions to damage employers in a bargaining context.

This Productivity Commission inquiry is the best chance Australia has had in years to ensure our workplace relations system is geared towards future prosperity.

The Minerals Council of Australia will participate actively in the next phase of the PC's inquiry.

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