Business groups join forces to fight Albanese government reforms

Anthony Albanese’s second suite of industrial relation reforms will be countered by a war chest backed by the country’s largest industry and business groups.

A multimillion-dollar campaign – “A Better Way, for Better Pay” – launched on Monday has warned Australians of the danger of the union-backed Labor-proposed same job, same pay law, calling it a hit on aspirational workers.

In what is set to be the most significant multi-industry counter-attack since the mining tax fight, the campaign will warn Australian workers that if they value being rewarded for their experience and hard work, “same job, same pay will take that away”.

In a joint statement signed by a number of groups, including the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, APPEA, the Business Council of Australia, Council of Small Business Organisations Australia, the Minerals Council of Australia, and the National Farmers Federation, the business community leaders said they “today stand as one”.

They said the “latest upheaval” to workplace relations would “lead to lower wage growth and fewer jobs – compounding the plight of workers and families who are already doing it tough”.

The groups say the reforms would take away worker incentive and reduce productivity.

“The so-called ‘Same Job, Same Pay’ proposals does not mean equal pay for men and women. It does not speak of fairness and justice, as its name falsely represents,” the statement said

“It means by law, employers will have to pay workers with little knowledge or experience exactly the same as workers with decades of knowledge and experience.

“It means by law, you cannot earn better pay by working harder or longer, if your colleague does not share your ambition or work ethic.”

The group said businesses of all sizes and shapes needed the opportunity to “ramp up and ramp down” as conditions required and opportunities arise – or risk stunted growth and a “never-ending rollercoaster of hiring and firing”.

Treasurer Jim Chalmers doubled down on the government’s reforms on Monday, saying the legislation would ensure labour hire and other insecure working arrangements weren’t used to undercut other workers’ pay and conditions.

“This isn’t about stopping businesses rewarding experience. It’s about making sure that workers are eligible for the pay and conditions that the employers have agreed with their workforces,” he told ABC Radio.

“It’s about closing loopholes to make sure that labour hire or casual workers or gig workers are used in the way that they’re intended.”

The same job, same pay reforms would ensure labour hire workers are paid at least the same as full-time employees. It would empower the Fair Work Commission to police disputes, and enshrine anti-avoidance measures.

Minerals Council chief executive Tania Constable said she was concerned by how “far-reaching” the same job, same pay reforms were, “and the government can’t explain it”.

She said the government “hasn’t been listening” to businesses’ concerns.

“They have talked about various concerns that they have … but they can’t actually show us examples of where it’s going wrong,” she told ABC News.

“This is about fairness … This goes well beyond what was suggested originally just applying to a limited number of labour hire firms and labour hire cases. It extends out to just about every business.”

Co-signee and ACCI chief executive Andrew McKellar said eliminating flexibility would “weaken the economy, punish workers, and drive up costs for consumers”.

Dr Chalmers said the government recognised that there was a role for labour hire, but the government didn’t want it used as an “ongoing way to undermine and undercut people’s pay and conditions that have been negotiated with employers”.

“That’s our motivation here. It’s not about trying to prevent businesses from recognising different levels of experience,” he said.

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