Calls by the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry for reform to the “better off overall test” (BOOT) and improving enterprise bargaining have made progress at the Jobs and Skills Summit in Canberra.
A consultation process to inform changes to the Fair Work Act will commence following the Summit and ACCI will seek to play a leading role for all employers: small, medium and large.
ACCI chief executive Andrew McKellar told the Summit this morning that the operation and interpretation of the BOOT was “a fundamental reform that’s got to be on the table”.
Mr McKellar made the comments during the session focusing on sustainable wage growth and the future of bargaining.
ACCI and other groups have repeatedly called for reform to the BOOT, which has become unworkable and a barrier to agreement-making, productivity and wages growth.
A commitment to reform the BOOT represents a significant development from Government.
Mr McKellar also told the Summit that while there were different views on the relationship between productivity and wages, “there’s no disagreement from business that when productivity goes up, wages should go up as well”.
“There is consensus between employers and unions that our bargaining system is withering,” Mr McKellar said.
“We have to restore the link between productivity and bargaining and wages.
“Productivity is fundamentally driven at the enterprise level, and that’s where the focus … should remain if we’re going to reinvigorate and restore confidence in the bargaining system.
“The question that we have to answer … is how can we fix those core problems in our bargaining system for businesses and organisations of all sizes: small, medium and large?”
At the conclusion of the session, Workplace Relations Minister Tony Burke said the Fair Work Act would be updated and consultation with stakeholders would begin next week.
Significant work will be undertaken after the Summit, starting next week, to flesh out these priorities, determine where risks and opportunities lie for employers, and to seek to shape what translates into legislative amendments during coming months.
Following the session, Mr McKellar said that new directions on industrial relations announced by Mr Burke would be critical in restoring common sense, but unanswered questions remained around the operation of proposed changes to multi-employer agreements.
“The veiled push for a return to industry-wide bargaining under the guise of multi-employer agreements is a distraction from the fundamental challenges miring our industrial relations system,” Mr McKellar said in ACCI’s media release.
“The ACTU must be transparent about the changes they propose to multi-employer bargaining given it is already clearly allowed under the Fair Work Act.
“We know that businesses and workers aren’t pursuing multi-employer agreements currently, so why are we looking for solutions in this area?
“Under the ACTU’s proposal, it also remains unclear the size and kind of firms that would have access to multi-employer agreements, and whether this will be restricted to the lower paid.”
At the start of the day’s session, Prime Minister Anthony Albanese announced that an additional 180,000 TAFE places would be funded.
Mr Albanese said the $1.1 billion cost would be shared with the states and territories, following an agreement reached at National Cabinet yesterday. Work will continue on development of the National Skills Agreement.
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