A new bill proposing to prevent unions from striking before adequate mediation has occurred and stopping ‘manifestly excessive’ demands during enterprise bargaining negotiations was introduced into federal parliament yesterday.
The Fair Work Amendment (Bargaining Processes) Bill 2014 also puts the issue of productivity on the table by, “Ensuring productivity improvements have been properly discussed and considered before the Fair Work Commission approves a new enterprise agreement.”
The AMMA is strongly backing the actions proposed in the Bill saying it would ‘deliver more productive outcomes for our economy’.
Chief Executive of the AMMA, Steve Knott, said the Bill would discourage premature strike action, particularly where trade unions are involved.
“It’s widely acknowledged that Australia has a major productivity challenge that is impacting on the competitiveness of our workplaces and our industries,” Mr Knott said.
“… for too long employers have battled an ineffective and uncompetitive workplace system that creates barriers and distractions to leadership, innovation and productivity.
“This is particularly prevalent where trade unions are involved in bargaining, forcing employers to process a phone book of union claims, effectively excluding any real opportunity to look at ways to improve the competitiveness and productivity of the business.
“The system also leaves employers under a constant threat of strike action, the impact of which goes well beyond the limited data captured by the ABS and creates industrial uncertainty and very real risks to doing business in Australia.
“The resource industry has been one of the key sectors impacted by unions seeking to strike over excessive claims, including the recent case of well-paid Port Hedland tugboat employees threatening to halt $150 million of daily iron ore exports in pursuit of further pay increases.”
However earlier this year ACTU president Ged Kearney said the Bill was “an attempt to slash take home pays and working conditions”.
“This is a blatant attempt to cut pay and conditions through Individual Contracts,” said Mr Kearney, “and shows the Abbott Government dosen’t understand the concerns of Australian workers.”
THE BILL IN A NUTSHELL:
Item 1 of Schedule 1 to the Bill requires the Fair Work Commission (FWC) to be satisfied that during bargaining for the agreement, improvements to productivity at the workplace were discussed. It does not require the parties to agree to terms, nor to include terms in an agreement about improving productivity.
Item 3 of Schedule 1 to the Bill requires that when considering whether an applicant for a protected action ballot order has been, and is, genuinely trying to reach an agreement, the FWC must have regard to all relevant circumstances, including a non-exhaustive list of matters which are drawn from principles of a Full Bench of Fair Work. The matters are:
- the steps taken by each applicant to try to reach an agreement;
- the extent to which each applicant has communicated its claims in relation to the agreement;
- whether each applicant has provided a considered response to proposals made by the employer; and
- the extent to which bargaining for the agreement has progressed.
Item 4 of Schedule 1 to the Bill requires that the FWC must not make a protected action ballot order in relation to a proposed enterprise agreement if it is satisfied that an applicant’s claims are manifestly excessive, having regard to the conditions at the workplace and the industry in which the employer operates, or that the claims would have a significant adverse impact on productivity at the workplace.