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We should simplify our industrial relations system, but not in the way big business wants

TJ Ryan Foundation Research Associate David Peetz writes in The Conversation (8.5.20) about how enterprise bargaining provisions take up seemingly endless pages in the federal Fair Work Act. The author argues that when the government talks about IR ‘reform’, we need to make sure the system becomes simpler for workers.

‘As Australia contemplates its post-COVID economy, industrial relations reform has been repackaged by some as the way to “kickstart” growth.

‘The Business Council of Australia (BCA) has called for our workplace relations system to be simplified and enterprise bargaining to be improved. The Australian Industry Group and the Australian Mines and Metal Association are also beating the drum for reform.

‘Reserve Bank governor Philip Lowe says we need to look at the system’s complexity, while this week former Productivity Commission chair Gary Banks singled out the virtue of industrial relations reform.

‘It’s true our IR needs to be simpler. But to do this right, we must focus on making enterprise bargaining easier for workers.’

Morrison government invites unions to dance, but employer groups call the tune

Anthony Forsyth writes in The Conversation (28.5.20) that Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s call for a new collaborative deal in industrial relations has been compared to the accords of the Hawke and Keating Labor years. The author echoes other observers in suggesting that it isn’t at all the same.

‘Prime Minister Scott Morrison this week proposed a new deal in industrial relations, bringing together the government, employers and unions to agree on reforms to create jobs and lift the economy in the post-COVID-19 pandemic recovery phase.

‘”We’ve booked the room, we’ve hired the hall, we’ve got the table ready,” he said on Tuesday. “We need people to get together and sort this stuff out.”

‘Comparisons have been made with the “accords” of the Hawke and Keating Labor years between 1983 and 1991. It’s not the same.

‘The Morrison government is simply recasting an agenda that business groups have pushed for the past decade, and inviting unions (and other stakeholders) into the room.

‘… Unions may well regard his peace proposal as a request to surrender. They won’t, of course, and will try to ensure their concerns about wage stagnation and exploitation of workers in the gig economy form part of the coming discussions.’

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