The ultimate objective of sound workplace relations policy should be to foster the success of high-productivity enterprises accompanied by high wages and expanding employment opportunities.
The ability to modernise workplaces is vital to the competitiveness of the Australian minerals industry, which is increasingly focused on integrating new technology and ideas into its operations.
Information and communications technology (ICT) is important in all stages of mining – especially exploration, three-dimensional seismic surveys and automation – and mining investment in ICT is expected to multiply rapidly.
However, the current regulation of workplace relations diverts firms from their core goal of promoting productive and cooperative enterprises.
The Fair Work Act is diverting firms from their core goal of promoting productive and cooperative enterprises. Separate reviews by the Fair Work Act Review Panel and the Productivity Commission have identified a number of areas in which the Act could be improved. In 2017, the commission estimated that implementing its reform proposals would add $850 million a year to the Australian economy.
The MCA broadly supports the Productivity Commission’s workplace relations reform agenda and recommends the following as immediate priorities:
- Confining permitted content in enterprise agreements to direct employment matters
- Refocusing adverse action provisions to discourage unreasonable claims
- Rebalancing union right-of-entry provisions to prevent unwarranted disruptions to operations
- Reforming greenfields agreements to encourage investment in new projects
- Allowing high-income earners to enter into individual agreements.
Existing workplace relations laws lock in poor practices that discourage investment and hinder productivity and innovation.
Without reform, productivity and competitiveness will suffer from the retention of archaic work practices and declining labour productivity, resulting in lower wages and fewer jobs.