Rushed IR reforms cause for concern

November 23, 2022

Geelong Manufacturing Council was this week among industry bodies lobbying decision-makers in Canberra over proposed changes to industrial relations rules.

Over 430 pages of comprehensive reforms in the Secure Jobs, Better Pay Bill moved quickly through the House of Representatives recently, introducing controversial provisions enabling multi-employer bargaining, among a raft of other changes.

GMC called on crossbench Senators, with the power to force further amendments to the law, to carve the manufacturing sector out of aspects of the Bill, given the high value and generally secure nature of manufacturing jobs.

Currently before the Senate and due to be passed by early December, the changes have the potential for unintended consequences if rushed through, says GMC CEO Jennifer Conley.

In a letter to crossbench Senators Lambie, Pocock and Tyrrell, GMC CEO Jennifer Conley, said the major concerns with the Bill included:

  • Provisions that undermine the system of enterprise bargaining and the comprehensive system of modern awards that have served manufacturing and employees well for decades;
  • Provisions that risk unfairly subjecting broad sectors to centralised settings of terms and conditions, reducing individual enterprise-level autonomy and competitiveness; and
  • The criteria for access to the ‘single interest’ bargaining and supported bargaining frameworks may be used to achieve industry sector agreements in a wider range of sectors than purportedly intended.

GMC canvased members for input to guide advocacy to Senators who will likely have a deciding vote on the legislation.

While the GMC appreciates that a range of amendments have addressed many issues, the excessive speed with which this Bill has progressed remains a major concern, given the comprehensive nature of these reforms.

In a briefing on Tuesday to GMC’s People & Culture Community of Practice about the potential impacts of the IR changes, as it stands, Murray Kellock and Brett Feltham from KWM employment law specialists encouraged employers to be prepared, including:

  • Develop a framework or policy for making decisions on flexible work requests, saying that broad generalised reasons for declining requests are not likely to be adequate;
  • Review fixed term employment contracts to ensure they’re in step with potential changes (two year maximum including extensions or renewals, unless over the income threshold);
  • Prepare for potential Enterprise Bargaining scenarios – understand the implications of single interest (multi-employer) bargaining and where employers may be compelled to participate.