AUSTRALIA'S INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS DEBATE
BETTER OFF OVERALL TEST
The Business Council of Australia wants it scrapped and replaced with a no-disadvantage test. The better off overall test ensures enterprise agreements put every employee on a better footing than the minimum award. Under the proposed change, groups of employees would only have to be better off than the award minimum, rather than every individual worker. BCA says the test is a productivity killer. Labor and unions argue the change would leave workers worse off, describing the push as Work Choices mark two.
Calls are growing for unfair dismissal rules to be relaxed for small and medium businesses. Liberal senator Amanda Stoker has led the charge, saying small businesses should have the right to determine if an employee isn't the right fit. The Small Business Ombudsman is also recommending changes to the code around unfair dismissal. But unions have grave concerns the push is designed to make it easier to sack workers who will have fewer rights to challenge unfair axings.
The Morrison government has brought back its proposed Ensuring Integrity laws, which make it easier to de-register unions and ban officials. The bill would also introduce a new public interest test for union mergers. It comes with voting under way on a historic merger between United Voice and the National Union of Workers which would create a new 150,000-member union. The ACTU is publicly and privately lobbying crossbench senators to block the bill, arguing it is extreme and dangerous. The government says Ensuring Integrity laws will crackdown on unions with a history of lawlessness like the CFMMEU.
Employers are still calling for clarity after the Federal Court ruled a casual worker was entitled to annual leave entitlements because they were employed on a regular basis over a long period of time. Bosses want action to stop "double-dipping" from workers receiving casual loadings and permanent benefits. But unions argue the decision shows employers can no longer abuse obligations to long-term casuals.
Former Labor leader Bill Shorten raised the prospect of enterprise agreements lasting the entirety of major resource projects during the election. A rump of Liberal backbenchers have backed the policy, along with the Business Council. Locking in long-term pay deals at the start of projects would stop enterprise bargaining midway through mining and other major projects.