Laws favour unions, say employers
Laws favour unions, say employers

Employers have savaged an independent review of the Gillard Government's workplace laws with the Business Council of Australia saying the recommendations would not stop unions "holding a gun" to the heads of resource companies.

A hand-picked panel found the Fair Work Act operated consistently with its objectives and did not make recommendations for sweeping changes.

Resource companies had called for the return of employer greenfields agreements to set wages and conditions for new projects before hiring workers and so avoiding negotiations with unions.

The three-member panel rejected this demand but recommended arbitration be available when the parties were unable to agree.

On productivity, the panel said the national slow-down might be solely due to the mining sector.

The huge investment since 2001 in new mining projects that were yet to start producing has effectively cut productivity levels 54 per cent.

BCA chief executive Jennifer Westacott said the review was a missed opportunity to improve Australia's competitiveness.

She said it could have got rid of complex and unwieldy regulations, especially when it came to securing project agreements quickly

"Under current arrangements, companies have a gun to their heads during negotiations," Ms Westacott said.

"They have tight time pressures for these projects while trying to get financing and then they have to negotiate with one or more unions."

The Australian Mines and Metals Association was even more scathing. It said the panel's recommendations would "prop up unionism", such as in suggesting employers still give accommodation to striking workers.

"It proposes an employer should pay union delegates to bask around the camp's pool, have a few drinks and get a tan while taking protected strike action. What an absurd concept," AMMA chief Steve Knott said.

But Workplace Relations Minister Bill Shorten said the panel found the legislation struck the right balance between employees and employers.

"They found this has been achieved without hurting competitiveness, without increasing industrial action or prompting excessive cost increases," Mr Shorten said.

Under pressure from business to adopt a harder IR stance, Opposition Leader Tony Abbott promised "careful, cautious, prudent, responsible changes" within the Act based on addressing problems, not ideology.

The West Australian

Popular videos

Compare & Save

Our Picks

Compare & Save

More from The West