Labor vows to keep fighting workplace bill

·2-min read

Unions and Labor have vowed to keep fighting the coalition's industrial relations reform package despite its most controversial part being dumped.

Industrial Relations Minister Christian Porter has scrapped a provision that would have handed the Fair Work Commission more power to approve enterprise agreements that leave workers worse off.

The government abandoned the better off overall test changes after it became clear crossbench senators opposed the measure.

But the backdown hasn't led to the federal opposition softening attacks on the government.

Industrial relations spokesman Tony Burke signalled a bitter fight in the lead up to the next election.

"When the government first announced it was planning industrial relations changes Labor set a very simple test: we would support the legislation if it delivered secure jobs with decent pay," he said.

"The government's legislation still fails that test."

Mr Porter said Labor opposing the bill meant the party was against criminal penalties for wage theft and a stronger path for casuals to convert to permanent roles.

He said other elements of the package meant more hours for part-time workers, creating a small claims mechanism for wage recovery and improvements to enterprise bargaining.

"Labor must now explain why it will oppose these common sense measures, which they have previously expressed public support for," he said.

The Australian Council of Trade Unions is targeting provisions it argues will tip the balance further in the favour of employers at the bargaining table.

ACTU president Michele O'Neil said the commission would be reduced to a "tick and flick" body with just 21 days to approve enterprise agreements.

"Bargaining is how wages improve, and these changes will leave workers worse off and with fewer rights," she said.

Business lobby groups are urging senators to pass the bill, arguing the changes are sensible and modest.

The coalition scrapped its last major attempt at industrial relations reform after One Nation voted against the so-called ensuring integrity bill in 2019.