WORKPLACE RELATIONS: THE CASE FOR REFORM

Australia needs to embrace a new round of workplace relations reforms so businesses and employees can tap into new sources of economic growth, find more productive ways of working and create the rewarding and skilled jobs of the future.

Australia’s economy, workplaces and jobs have been changing over recent years – and we now face rapid technological advances with major implications for the world of work.

Our workplace relations framework needs to allow employers and employees to maximise the opportunities these changes will bring, rather than acting as a barrier to the improved competitiveness and productivity, and the new investment needed to boost jobs and living standards.

The Minerals Council of Australia is today releasing a policy paper on Australia’s workplace relations framework: The case for reform which identifies the mining industry’s priorities for reform.

The paper, which reflects several months of consultation with MCA member companies, sets out a sensible and balanced package of proposed reforms to the Fair Work Act.

The priority reforms are:

  • Removing the availability of protected industrial action over business decisions and ensuring enterprise agreements deal with direct employment matters.
  • Refocusing the Act’s ‘adverse action’ provisions so they do not act as unreasonable barriers to business decision-making and performance management processes.
  • Introducing more balanced workplace right of entry rules.
  • Reforming greenfields agreements, including introducing ‘life of project’ agreements, so the workplace relations system helps get major new projects off the ground.
  • Letting employees above a high-income threshold choose between being covered by enterprise agreements or individual employment agreements.

These reforms will ensure the Fair Work Act supports improved productivity, investment in new mining projects, balanced workplace bargaining and flexible employment arrangements – outcomes which, in turn, will create new, skilled and rewarding mining industry jobs into the future.

Ultimately, Australia’s workplace relations system needs to evolve a wider set of agreement options that allows the potential of professional and respectful working relationships to be fully realised. As debate on how to best achieve this level of flexibility in workplace arrangements evolves, the MCA is setting out short-term priorities for reform that are consistent with this direction and realistic in their ambition.

The mining industry already provides some of Australia’s best-paid and most highly-skilled jobs for blue-collar and white-collar workers alike.

The average mining employee earns $140,000 a year, making mining the highest-paying industry in Australia – and mining has had the fastest wages growth of any industry over the last decade.

With the mining boom moving from the investment phase to the production phase, Australia will reap the economic benefits of investments the industry has already made for years to come.

But we now need to ensure our workplace relations system does not create impediments to new investment in an environment where mining companies must compete harder to finance the new projects that will create the jobs and growth of the future.

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