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Ai Group has “issues” with Fair Work Bill

The Australian Industry Group (Ai Group) chief executive, Heather Ridout, will attend the Sydney public hearing of the Senate Inquiry into the Fair Work Bill this week to voice “issues” the industry representative harbours about the Bill’s content.

Ai Group presented a submission to the Senate Inquiry into the Fair Work Bill in January which contained a suggestion that the “reckless use of the proposed increase in union power” would come at the expense of jobs.

The submission claimed that the Bill has put in place important protections for business and has addressed a number of issues already raised by Ai Group to protect workers in the industry, however it also said the Bill needed tightening in key areas.

At the public hearing of the Bill, Ridout will present the view that the Bill needs to be amended to address the following problems:

1. The Bill substantially increases union entry rights, giving each union access to a much wider range of workplaces and giving union officials access to wage records of non-union members. The existing entry rights are appropriate and should not be expanded.

2. A union should not be entitled to be covered by an enterprise agreement if only a minority of the employees are union members. A union should only be entitled to be covered if the agreement specifies that the union is covered by it, and the agreement is made with the union.

3. Unless amended the greenfields agreement provisions will result in substantial delays in the commencement of construction projects and increased construction costs.

4. Ai Group has concerns about the drafting of some of the Bill’s provisions relating to enterprise agreement making and the potential for interpretation problems to arise. Important changes are proposed to various provisions including those relating to dispute settling, an employer’s obligation to bargain, Fair Work Australia’s powers, and the criteria for majority support determinations and scope orders.

5. The low paid bargaining stream, which would have the effect of reintroducing compulsory arbitration, would undermine Australia’s enterprise bargaining system and add a further layer of arbitrated employment conditions above the safety net. It should be scrapped.

6. The Bill’s approach of preventing enterprise agreements overriding State and Territory long service leave laws would disadvantages all parties.

7. The transfer of business provisions of the Bill are very problematic and will cause major problems for businesses in the Information and Communications Technology (ICT), contract call centre, cleaning, catering and a wide range of other industries which carry out work outsourced from other industries.

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