Fair Work reform propped by cost pressures

AN industry group has used the latest revelations showing costs on Australian resource construction projects have blown out by $A20 billion to laminate its case against the inefficiencies of the Fair Work Act.
Fair Work reform propped by cost pressures Fair Work reform propped by cost pressures Fair Work reform propped by cost pressures Fair Work reform propped by cost pressures Fair Work reform propped by cost pressures


Brooke Showers

The Australian Mines and Metals Association recently lodged its submission to the senate inquiry into the first round of Fair Work legislative amendments, against the backdrop of miners facing rising operating and labour costs.

AMMA said senior executives from Australia’s biggest mining and resource companies were experiencing high cost blowouts and dismal productivity on some of the nation’s major resource projects.

“At this week’s Australian Resources Conference in Perth, speaker after speaker highlighted and directly linked many of the cost blowouts and labour productivity issues to the government’s Fair Work laws,” AMMA chief executive Steve Knott said.

Knott said there were more than $500 billion worth of resource projects either approved or proposed in Australia, which was estimated to create 90,000 new jobs by 2016.

“Yet the government continues to ignore employers’ significant concerns about the adverse impact the Fair Work legislation is having on the commercial viability on these projects, in terms of labour productivity and the excessive labour costs being incurred,” he said.

Some of the main issues AMMA addressed in its submission to the senate inquiry included the capacity to make greenfield agreements without exorbitant wage and condition outcomes or unnecessary project delays, and ensuring allowable matters in enterprise agreements pertained to the employment relationship.

AMMA is also pushing for protected industrial action to be taken only as a last resort and for the location and frequency of union workplace visits to be more reasonable.

Further, the industry group is urging the government to broaden the current agreement-making options through the reintroduction of some form of individual agreement making.

Knott said the resource industry had significant concerns around a number of proposals, particularly those not recommended by the Fair Work Act review panel, and on which no consultation has been entered into.

“These amendments have skirted the real problems with the Fair Work Act,” he said.

“In short, the bill misses the main industrial relations reform game and instead focuses on creating two additional vice president roles, which if proceeded with, would most likely undermine the integrity and impartiality of the tribunal authority.

“With two VP roles already existing and inaction on the substantive IR issues affecting employers, there is little wonder why the business community’s confidence in Labour’s Fair Work system continues to erode.”