Ai Group slams lack of productivity gains in Labors IR reforms

Ai Group slams lack of productivity gains in IR reforms

The Australian government is facing accusations of pushing a "union agenda" as the national employers’ organisation criticised the industrial relations (IR) reforms for not focusing on productivity.

Ai Group chief executive Innes Willox lambasted on Wednesday the government for pushing IR reforms that do not seek to improve productivity, jobs, growth, and investment.

"At its simplest, the government is seeking to deliver a union agenda," Willox said in a speech. "These measures are designed to grow union membership."

He made the remarks as he mentioned the government’s proposal to expand the rights of union delegates and union officials, including the suggestion that would authorise unions to enter workplaces and inspect all wage records without a 24-hour notice.

Focus on productivity

According to the AI chief, the government’s latest IR reforms seem to ignore the country’s lagging productivity problem.

"There is one slogan that has been missing from the government’s rhetoric and that is ‘fix our lagging productivity.’ The word productivity has hardly been mentioned as a desired outcome of the government’s measures," Willox said.

He pointed out the country’s recently passed law on multi-employer agreements will only be used by unions to push for "highly restrictive provisions that will further inhibit productivity."

The upcoming "Same Job, Same Pay" policy will also risk imposing unjustifiable and unfair requirements on industry, according to Willox.

"The ‘Same Job, Same Pay’ proposal is unfair to businesses and employees. It will kill productivity and remove the incentive for people to work hard, increase their skills and take home more pay," Willox said.

He criticised the upcoming legislation for not being supported by facts, adding that it is an "unjustified attack on the labour hire sector."

Casual employment, gig work

Willox also mentioned the proposed changes to casual employment, as well as the risk of the new regulations for gig work.

According to the Ai Group chief, there are still major questions about how the government’s plan to replace the definition of a "casual employee" will operate in practice.

"It is essential that any definition of a ‘casual employee’ does not lead to employers once again becoming cannon fodder for class action lawyers and foreign litigation funding firms," he said.

Stressing that casual employment is a "genuine win-win outcome" for employers and employees, Willox said changes would risk introducing unnecessary new barriers and create uncertainty over who is a casual employee.

"This will only serve to reduce employer willingness to offer casual employment opportunities in the first place," he said.

On gig work, Willox noted that new regulations for the sector should preserve the flexibility of gig workers.

"The surveys show that most gig workers wish to remain independent contractors and have no desire to carry out that form of work as an employee," he said.

The Ai Group chief accused unions of pushing for "heavy-handed, excessive regulations" that would cause "major problems" for gig businesses and workers, as well as other independent contracting arrangements.

"Why attack gig workers, labour hire companies, tradies, and other independent contractors? People who want to work in their own time and on their own terms," Willox said. "The answer is that commonly none of these groups have any real interest in joining unions."

Australians ‘deserve better’

Australia’s workforce participation has been rising strongly, according to the Ai Group. Employment growth has also been "particularly strong" from 2015 to today.

"If you believed all the myths and legends being peddled as reasons for huge change, you would think that the Australian labour market is on the verge of collapse. Nothing could be further from the truth," Willox said.

He then questioned why the government is introducing "even more complexity and change" through its IR reforms.

"All we hear as rationale are slogans: ‘Get wages moving,’ ‘Same Job, Same Pay,’ ‘Close the loopholes,’" he said. "We deserve better. Changes to workplace laws need to be based on facts and research, not on political slogans and union claims."

Clayton Cook’s commentary on this article.

The government seems to be wasting time trying to fix something that isn’t broken. Logic and data have given away to feelings, or pressure from Unions trying desperately to fix their dwindling membership.

Simply reminds me this sh*t show is run by clowns.