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Labor outlines workplace relations agenda

Submitted on Monday, 17th December 2018

In an address to the National Press Club on Wednesday 12 December 2018, the Shadow Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations, Brendan O’Connor has clearly outlined Labor’s workplace relations agenda going into the next election.

In his speech, the Shadow Minister outlined that if elected next year, a Labor government will:

  1. Require that labour hire workers working alongside direct employees at a site get the same pay and conditions as direct employees
  2. Implement a national labour hire licensing scheme
  3. Introduce a legislated, objective definition of casual employment
  4. Increase penalties for systemic and intentional underpayment of wages, including by making employers liable to a penalty three times the size of the underpayment
  5. Tighten the definition of independent contracting
  6. Reverse the Fair Work Commission decision to reduce penalty rates for employees on award rates in the retail, pharmacy and hospitality sectors
  7. Introduce multi-employer or sector wide bargaining
  8. Restrict the ability for employers to enter into enterprise agreements with a small group of employees and then use that to cover different employees that were not part of the agreement making process
  9. Change the test for employers to apply to the Fair Work Commission to terminate expired enterprise agreements e.g. preventing unilateral termination during bargaining.
  10. Terminate existing work choices era enterprise agreements
  11. Seek to restore the balance of employer and employee representees appointed to the Fair Work Commission
  12. Seek to address gender pay equity through changes to equal remuneration laws

The Shadow Minister also flagged changes to skilled migration to ensure that it is not a mainstay of employment, saying that workers on skilled visas “shouldn't be here a day longer than it takes for us to train local workers”.

He indicated that further announcements would be made ahead of the election regarding modern awards and the minimum wage setting process, potentially introducing an aspirational target to link the minimum wage to a measure of median wages.

Many of these proposed changes are concerning as they would increase employment costs and reduce flexibility for employers and potentially result in increased levels of industrial action.

In the lead up to the federal election (expected to be in May 2019) the Victorian Chamber will highlight the extent to which many of these changes would put jobs at risk and will advocate on behalf of our members for a simpler workplace relations system that helps business to grow.

 

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