The West

Chaney blasts penalty rates
Michael Chaney.

Michael Chaney, a key member of Tony Abbott's new Business Advisory Council, has called for the reintroduction of individual agreements and a cut to penalty rates.

The chairman of Woodside and National Australia Bank, who is one of 12 council members advising the Prime Minister on business and industrial relations, said individual contracts would bolster productivity.

The agreements were the central plank of John Howard's controversial WorkChoices regime, which drew heavy criticism from unions and contributed to the Coalition's 2007 election defeat.

Mr Chaney said productivity had dropped after they were abolished because employers and employees were no longer able to tailor conditions to best suit an individual's circumstances and because it opened negotiations up to a third party - unions.

"What we found in 1996 when individual agreements were introduced was that productivity increased because employees were able to talk directly to employers and they started to become very innovative," he said.

"Unions are not interested in productivity - unions are only interested in wages.

"The key to it was that it freed employers up from the shackles of union interference.

"It made (workforces) more like the workforce that I am used to, where people are employed as individuals. They are treated like individual employees and not like a mass of people."

Mr Chaney said he was not at liberty to disclose advisory council discussions but he believed it was unlikely individual contracts would be re-introduced in this term of government.

He supported extra powers for the construction industry watchdog, Fair Work Building and Construction, claiming the Howard government predecessor regime was the only body able to effectively deal with unlawful industrial behaviour.

Mr Chaney said the penalty rates system, in which some employees were paid up to 250 per cent more on public holidays, was "completely ridiculous" in the modern era of flexibility. This cost jobs and prevented businesses from opening on some days, he said.

UnionsWA president Meredith Hammat said there was concern at growing calls from employers for a cut in penalty rates.

"This push won't stop," she said.

"Business don't care about fair after-hours pay or time with family and friends."

The West Australian

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