Business leaders have warned that “going away money” has become a feature of the Australian workplace and will call on Scott Morrison to make it easier for employers to sack staff.
Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry chief executive James Pearson was among business figures who yesterday welcomed the Prime Minister’s review of the IR system, which the union movement labelled a process to “reduce workers’ rights”.
Mr Pearson, whose lobby represents 300,000 businesses, said unfair dismissal laws were too favourable towards workers.
“Going away money is an unfortunate fact of workplace relations life in Australia because it has become too hard, too expensive, too time-consuming for small business people to deal with situations where they need to terminate an employee’s employment,” Mr Pearson told The Australian.
He also backed a call from Ai Group chief executive Innes Willox for a review of the “better off overall test”, which requires all employees to be better off in a new enterprise agreement.
“What it effectively does is it raises the bar on enterprise agreements and it deters employers from looking to negotiate new agreements,” he said. “It is getting too hard to reach agreement between employees and employers and it is getting too hard to actually get that agreement ratified at the Fair Work Commission.”
Business owner Bob Campbell employs 75 people in his manufacturing company, Precision Metals, in the NSW town of Queanbeyan.
Mr Campbell yesterday complained about delays when installing products on building sites because of the militancy of the construction union. He said the Fair Work Commission should be given stronger powers to act against rogue unions.
He also called for the award system to be simplified. “We are covered by multiple awards at present and it becomes a bloody nightmare,” he said.
Council of Small Business Organisations Australia managing director Peter Strong said workplace laws needed to be simplified so they could be easily understood by business owners.
“We are not into ideology. That is where Work Choices failed — because it was too ideological,” he said. “The system needs to be easier for the employee and employer to understand it.”
Addressing the WA Chamber of Commerce yesterday, Mr Morrison urged the business community to lead the debate in convincing the public for the need to change workplace relations laws.
The review will be headed by Industrial Relations Minister Christian Porter. “Any changes in this area must be evidence-based, protect the rights and entitlements of workers and have clear gains for the economy and for working Australians,” Mr Morrison said. “We would expect business organisations such as yours to build the evidence for change and help bring the community along. Just as our economy is growing and changing, our skills system needs to grow and change with it.”
With parliament to resume next week, the government will reintroduce the Ensuring Integrity Bill to bolster the Federal Court’s powers to deregister law-breaking unions. ACTU president Michele O’Neil said Mr Morrison did not have a mandate to “reduce workers’ rights”.
“The Morrison government insisted that it had no plans to reduce workers’ rights during the campaign despite constant questions from unions and the media,” she said. “Now we see the truth. He has called on business to deliver his minister a wish list and has dusted off previously failed legislation to attack unions.”
Opposition industrial relations spokesman Tony Burke said the review showed Mr Morrison “just doesn’t like trade unions”.
“He has no respect for the right of Australians to join unions and pursue their interests in the workplace,” he said. “Trade unions are a force for good in this country.”
Business Council of Australia chief executive Jennifer Westacott said the business community “stands ready” to work with the government on “sensible solutions” to increase productivity.
Mr Morrison also declared yesterday the government would consult business in a review of red and green tape.
Originally published The Australian.