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Fair Work review finds laws are working
Fair Work review finds laws are working

A review of the Fair Work Act has found it has not led to a wages blowout nor has it dealt a blow to productivity or cut businesses' competitiveness.

When Labor abolished the Howard government's Work Choices laws following the 2007 election, it also promised to review the new Fair Work system after its first years of operation.

Receiving about 250 submissions, the review, to be released by Workplace Relations Minister Bill Shorten in Melbourne on Thursday, has made 53 recommendations for changes.

Overall, the review panel of Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) board member John Edwards, former Federal Court judge Michael Moore and workplace relations expert Ron McCallum found the act was working as intended.

"In our view, the current laws are working well and the system of enterprise bargaining underpinned by the national employment standards and modern awards is delivering fairness to employers and employees," the report says.

The report said that the reviewers did not restrict themselves to just the Fair Work Act, but looked at other bargaining frameworks during the past 20 years including the coalition's Work Choices.

It noted that Work Choices had found "no political champion" since the Howard government lost office in 2007.

"The option of returning to Work Choices was not seriously explored by any of the major stakeholders during consultations with the panel," the report said.

The report recommended that industrial bodies encourage more productive workplaces through promoting best practice in agreements.

In relation to pay talks on greenfields agreements, such as with new mining projects, the panel said a form of arbitration should be available "if the parties are unable to reach agreement within a suitable timeframe".

And Fair Work Australia should be given the power to initiate compulsory conciliation when the parties have been unable to reach agreement.

Time limits for lodging unfair dismissal applications and for general protections claims involving dismissal should be 21 days and FWA should be given the power to dismiss unfair dismissal applications in certain circumstances.

Time limits for lodging unfair dismissal applications and for general protections claims involving dismissal should be 21 days and FWA should be given the power to dismiss unfair dismissal applications in certain circumstances

Mr Shorten said the review showed the Fair Work Act was accomplishing its objectives.

"I'm heartened that the core conclusion of the panel is that our Fair Work laws are working well and as intended," he told reporters in Melbourne on Thursday.

The government will now consult with industry, employees and their representatives, and the states about the panel's suggestions to improve the act.

"But nobody should be in any doubt that the review does not recommend sweeping changes," Mr Shorten said.