Where to from here for the anti-Fair Work Act campaign?

The day after the Coalition released its’ workplace relations policy, including to keep the Fair Work Act more or less in tact, Matt Cowgill from the ACTU has done some great analysis of opposition to, and results of, the Fair Work Act. Most fascinating for me was the graph of the “Days lost to industrial disputes” since 1987… it’s a very different world we live in today, regardless of whether the coalition or Labor are in government.

For those that are interested, the coalition’s workplace relations policy can be found here.  The main points of interest to me are:

  • Keeping and improving the Fair Work Act, including a concession that the laws are relatively new, and there are some good outcomes;
  • Addressing workplace bullying (actually this point is just accepting Labor’s proposed changes, but adding the condition that employees have sought “help and impartial advice from an independent regulatory agency”, and extending it to bullying by unions, not just employers);
  • A paid parental leave scheme with 6 months’ leave at full pay including super;
  • Ensuring that officials from registered organisations such as unions are held to the same level of accountability as company directors, with specific reference to the HSU and AWU scandals (surprising Craig Thompson wasn’t named in person, given this is a coalition document); and
  • Guaranteeing flexible work arrangements can’t be restricted by unions, and can be agreed between employees and employers (this seems like a no-brainer)

It seems that the Fair Work Act is here to stay for the time being – I suspect neither of the major parties want to fight yet another election on industrial relations issues.  Ultimately, this is good news for employers – every time a major proposal to IR is made an election issue, it imposes risk that slows down new projects and investment.

2 thoughts on “Where to from here for the anti-Fair Work Act campaign?

  1. Alex,

    First off, Matt is an excellent writer and a top notch analyst. However, he is also the top wonk and number cruncher for the ACTU so his piece has an opposite slant than that of the Australian. Truth is often found somewhere in the middle of two extremes.

    On your final thoughts I think you’ll find that the Liberal party do not want contest the next election on IR, while the Labor party would love to. Employer groups are not happy with keeping the current FWA framework in place and are lobbying hard for a more robust engagement from the Tories (see 7.30 Report interview with Eric Abetz from this week for more details if your interested).

    • Hi Shane, and thanks for weighing in. Agree that Matt, like all writers will have their own perspectives and background – which is why I had mentioned above that he’s from the ACTU. Regardless of the politics, I thought the article was well-reasoned.

      Now that I think about it, Labor would possibly be happy to contest the election on anything other than the budget deficit, but I suspect they won’t escape it. I think I could probably pretty accurately predict the campaign ads now, in fact. I doubt IR will be a major issue after looking at this policy, both parties want to make evolutionary changes to FWA and have different intent on IR, but not fundamentally different intent for the most part. What do you think the real election issues will be this year?

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