Legislation introduced to parliament today will be bad for productivity, those wanting to be their own boss, and consumers struggling with the cost-of-living crisis.

“The only winners in this are union chiefs. The only loophole this bad legislation is looking to close is that of plummeting union membership,” ACCI chief executive officer Andrew McKellar said.

“This is a continuation of a radical industrial relations agenda, and we are again bracing ourselves for further risky changes to our workplace system.

“The government has not made a case for these changes. It has not been able to outline how this legislation will enhance productivity, lift wages, or make it easier to generate more jobs.

“If you’re in labour hire or want a casual job, prepare for unemployment. If you are a service provider and want to advertise online, prepare for unemployment.”

ACCI appreciates the government’s direct engagement during consultation, which has produced some improvements to the Bill.

“But the changes made do not go far enough. The bill is unworkable, and ACCI opposes the legislation in its current form.

“The fact that the government knows it has to introduce exemptions for small business is a tacit admission that the changes will hurt businesses of all sizes.

“We support those changes which provide enhanced protection to those suffering from family and domestic violence and those practical changes impacting small business insolvency and the setting of model modern award terms,” Mr McKellar said.

The government must allow parliament sufficient time to consider these radical and risky changes.

“Reports that the government is planning to rush this through and minimise proper scrutiny are a big concern,” Mr McKellar said.

“There must not be a repeat of what happened last time. There needs to be a three-month public inquiry process, not three weeks.”

Risk to gig platforms and independent contractors

“The scope of changes will impact a broad range of contractor arrangements.

This goes well beyond the election commitment to set minimum standards for the rideshare and food delivery sectors,” Mr McKellar said.

“You can see this in the broad definitions of ‘digital labour platform’ and ‘employee-like.’ ACCI calls on the government to amend the legislation to tighten the alarmingly broad definition of “employee-like,” which threatens the right of Australians to be their own boss.

“The minister has already admitted we will see costs increase because of these changes. The cost of your takeaway pizza on a Friday night will become more expensive. The cost of getting a ride home will also be more expensive.

“It is not good for innovation in the marketplace. We have already seen that attempts to create artificial legislative or regulatory barriers will fail.

“The solution is a limited list of standards for rideshare and food delivery sectors only.”

Risk to road transport and our supply chains

“The government is effectively reviving the failed Road Safety Remuneration Tribunal. Multiple independent reviews found this failure to have cost the lives and livelihoods of hard-working owner-drivers,” Mr McKellar said.

“This new body within the Fair Work Commission will have the same profound impact on the road transport industry. Owner drivers will again lose the flexibility to set their rates and conditions and hurt remote and regional communities.

“Australians will ultimately feel the pinch at the supermarket checkout.

“Parliament should not bend to the demands of the Transport Workers Union and should reject these changes.

“Into hundreds of pages of legislation, the government has snuck in a small provision that gives the minister the power to make regulations for “contracted chain participants.” In doing so he is handing over control of our supply chains to the Fair Work Commission.

“This will impact everyone from ship to supermarket and road to restaurant. The minister must come clean about what he intends to do with this new regulation-making power.”

Risk to labour hire

“Labour hire is a legitimate form of work, and the government should stop demonising it,” Mr McKellar said.

“We welcome the government’s acceptance of calls by ACCI and others to limit the operation of the provisions to where the union makes an application and acknowledge that this will go some way in ironing out some of the worst practical issues in earlier drafts.

“Exemptions for small business, and training arrangements, will go some way to protect apprentices and small business owners.

“Changes to the bill are necessary to put beyond all doubt the exclusion of service contracting from the broad definition of labour hire.”

Risk to casual employment

“It will be harder for businesses to engage casuals if these changes become law. Both employer and employee expect that when they agree to a casual employment arrangement, the Fair Work Commission will uphold this relationship,” Mr McKellar said.

“The shift to abstract, broad and conceptual notions will cause uncertainty for businesses, particularly small businesses who have dealt with many new laws in the last few years.

“ACCI acknowledges the government’s improvements to the new conversion provisions and its commitment to retain the existing offsetting requirements for back pay.

“However, the government must fulfil its public commitment to prohibit backpay and make that explicit in the legislation.”

Wage theft

“No one working in Australia should be deprived of what they are entitled to,” Mr McKellar said.

“Wilful non-compliance with the law, including deliberate attempts by employers to deprive their employees of their due entitlements, cannot be tolerated.

“ACCI welcomes the decision of government to limit wage theft laws to deliberate and intentional conduct only. Businesses trying to do the right thing and make a mistake should not face jail time or onerous penalties.

“That said, nothing announced today will improve the rates of underpayments in this country. We know that the key driver of non-compliance is Australia’s absurdly complex industrial relations system.

“A Byzantine awards system with different shifts, overtime, and penalty rates dramatically increases the chance that an employer makes a payment mistake.

“The reality is that many laws, regulations and agreements in the workplace are outdated, convoluted and complex, resulting in the under- and over-payment of employees.

“If the minister is serious about addressing underpayments, he should start by simplifying the awards system.”

Right of entry and delegate’s rights

The government is seeking to deputise union delegates, establishing them in proxy law enforcement roles,” Mr McKellar said.

“These changes are no more than a sop to unions who want more power. The government has been unable to point to an actual loophole to close.

“Unions already have the right to enter workplaces to investigate suspected wage underpayments.

“Further, unions can and already do have the ability to bargain for enterprise agreement terms related to delegate rights.

“There is no justification for increasing these already-existing powers.”

Ashley Gardiner

Director - Media and Communications

P: 0262708020
E: media@acci.com.au

Share this article