IR law changes won't hurt workers: Porter

Paul Osborne
·2-min read

Industrial Relations Minister Christian Porter has rejected Labor criticism that changes to workplace laws will be detrimental to workers.

The government is considering enterprise bargaining law changes which would enable the Fair Work Commission to consider coronavirus impacts when approving agreements that fail the "better off overall test", or BOOT.

To approve two-year deals that don't guarantee all workers are better off, there would have to be support from employers and employees, and the Fair Work Commission would need to be satisfied that it is both appropriate and in the public interest.

Labor's industrial relations spokesman Tony Burke on Thursday released an analysis of 10 of Australia's most common workplace awards, using the government's fair pay calculator.

The analysis weighed up how much some types of workers could lose over the summer period if penalty rates for Christmas Day, Boxing Day, New Year's Day and Australia Day were scrapped.

Mr Burke said the analysis showed workers over the summer break could lose between $840 and $1170 from their pay packets if public holiday penalty rates are scrapped under the BOOT changes.

"Pay cuts are bad for workers and bad for the economy. For Australia to recover from the recession we need people with the money and confidence to spend," he said.

The analysis' calculations were based on the difference between the base and public holiday pay rates of those who work standard eight hour days across all four summer public holidays.

Mr Porter said Labor had "completely and dishonestly" mischaracterised one part of the law changes.

"It is a simple fact that the Fair Work Commission already has the power to approve non-BOOT compliant enterprise agreements in very limited and exceptional circumstances, subject to the ultimate safeguard that no such agreement can be approved if it were not in the public interest to do so," he told AAP on Thursday.

He said a Labor government introduced the mechanism.

"Labor knows full well that the provision was only for use in emergency situations to help save businesses from collapsing and to prevent workers losing their jobs," Mr Porter said.

"And the reality is that the power has only been used a handful of times over the past decade.

"All the government has proposed is that COVID-19 should be specifically recognised as such a circumstance so that - for a limited time - businesses at risk of failure due to the impact of the pandemic can work with their employees to find a way to keep going."