IR issues of note in the upcoming Federal election

Well, it’s that time again, when we are all ambushed by political campaign advertisements into how we should or should not vote.

In early-May 2016, the Prime Minister approached the Governor General on the back of two pieces of legislation that were continually being blocked through Parliament. He announced to the Australian people that there would be a double dissolution election on 2 July 2016. Industrial relations reform is (and should be) a hot topic for discussion for every election and, in this instance, it was the trigger and ‘front and centre’ in election considerations.

Out of the two specific pieces of IR legislation, the first was the Government’s proposed bill to re-establish the construction watchdog, the Australian Building and Construction Commission (“ABCC”).The second, was that of the Registered Organisations bill which had also been blocked twice.

The introduction of the ABCC will provide a regulator to monitor and attempt to reform an industry that has been hit with unrealistic demands for far too long. With such an impact on overall project viability, it is too important a subject to not consider fully.

For Victorians, with the recent CFMEU proposed statewide-EBA, there are two major infrastructure projects that are now in jeopardy of substantial blowouts:

  1. The Western Distributor Project, which could cost an additional $220 million; and
  2. The Melbourne Metro Rail Project, which recent media reports have claimed could blow out by approximately $420 million.

It is time for building and construction companies to start looking at their EBA arrangements to ensure they are not just financially sustainable to the overall Victorian economy, but realistic in approach, to ensure the longevity of their business and the industry. Will 2016 be the year this finally happens?

Other relevant issue at play

A further clear commitment from the coalition government is to protect our volunteers under specific provisions of the Fair Work Act 2009 (“FW Act”). The Turnbull Government claims it will aim to prevent EBAs from restricting volunteer emergency workers (driven by unionised, permanent employees as happened in the Victorian CFA example). Whilst sketchy on detail, there are already differing views that any such change may in fact not be constitutionally valid. What do you think?

Of course, the most prominent volunteer dispute at the moment are the CFA volunteers in Victoria, who are facing a union takeover of their organisation. Will the Victorian CFA dispute have an effect on the results of the federal election? A cursory look in today’s papers reveals there could be a stand-off at polling booths come election day between the CFA members and the United Firefighter Union. How will this play out in marginal seats?

There is discussion occurring around regarding the “protection” of penalty rates and whether or not they should be enshrined in legislation, or left to the ‘independent umpire’, the Fair Work Commission (“FWC”). Both our major parties believe this should be left to the FWC, however Adam Bandt from the Greens has a different view.

Over the last couple of weeks, both major parties have launched fully into their election campaigns with mainstream TV commercials and touring around this great country, shaking hands, kissing babies etc.

So where are we at now? Have you heard anything during the campaigns about proposed industrial relations changes, or are they just not ‘sexy’ enough to get the voters’ attention? Will any of the foreshadowed changes result in substantive change in your workplace or the way you conduct your HR and people practices?

Workplace Wizards provides specialist workplace relations support to Australian companies. Contact us today to have us assist you comply with the pay, allowances and other requirements of your modern award/s, help negotiate your upcoming EBA or resolve any other HR, employee, trade union or workers’ compensation issue holding your organisation back.

Mark Ritchie

Mark Ritchie

Mark is passionate about helping Australian businesses efficiently resolve their industrial relations issues. Mark has demonstrated proficiency advising managers, executives and boards of small to medium-sized enterprises, as well as some of Australia’s best-known companies, on both litigious and non-litigious matters.

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