The Australian Mines and Metals Association (AMMA) – the country’s peak body representing resource industry employees – said fundamental reform to the national workforce relations system must start in 2015 if Australia is to meet its mounting economic, employment and social challenges.
AMMA Executive Director Scott Barklamb said Australia cannot afford its workplace relations system “to become a millstone around the neck of our economy and community” at a time when resource employers navigate falling commodity prices and gradually shrink investments.
“The warning signs are clear. Investors are increasingly viewing Australia as an expensive place to do business, are concerned at our capacity to deliver projects on time and budget, and are concerned about reduced productivity,” Mr Barklamb said.
“The International Monetary Fund has warned if Australia doesn’t significantly improve its labour productivity, we will fail to maintain growth in living standards over the coming decade.”
Mr Barklamb pointed out that the World Economic Forum ranked Australia in the top echelon of countries on health, education, economic regulation and the rule of law, but among the bottom on cooperation in labour-employer relations, flexibility of wage determination, hiring and firing, and linking pay and productivity.
He said 2015 will be a pivotal year and that the recently announced Productivity Commission review into Australia’s workplace laws should expose how the Fair Work Act is failing workplaces, employers, employees and the community, and identify options for a better system.
Mr Barklamb also said that on behalf of the resource industry, AMMA is commissioning substantial research into the economic and employment impact in Australia’s current approaches to:
- damaging strikes and threats to strike;
- what can be included in an employment agreement, and in union logs of claims;
- when and how unions can come onto worksites;
- employment terms and conditions for new major resource projects;
- new options for individual agreement making.
He said AMMA will tell the Productivity Commission that if the resource industry is to continue to create employment opportunities and help sustain high living standards throughout the community, critical problems with the national workplace laws must be confronted.
“There is nothing fair in regulation that puts jobs at risk, threatens living standards, and reduces the capacity for young people to get a job. 2015 is the year to have a long overdue national conversation on workplace reform, and to demonstrate the political and social maturity to deliver the best possible balance between protecting employment standards, and productive and competitive enterprises,“ Mr Barklamb said.
“Our political representatives must let the Productivity Commission do its work, then realistically consider its recommendations and any proposed legislation with an open mind. This should include reconsidering legislation already before the parliament. A positive start to 2015 would be the urgent passage of the workplace reform bills currently stalled in the Senate.”