In this week’s instalment of citizen journalism, the Australian Hotels Association (AHA) chief executive Bill Healy makes an impassioned plea for unionists not to see the newly passed Fair Work Bill as an opportunity to turn the clock to the bad old days.
The passage of the Fair Work Bill though Parliament is the beginning, not the end of the work required to maintain fair and productive workplaces that can successfully operate in a 21st Century global economy.
Ultimately, relationships, not rules, will determine whether the new arrangements help or hinder business viability and lead to job losses.
The AHA believe the Government has made a sincere attempt to balance the competing interests of all stakeholders and the broader community in the development of the new Act.
The real challenge is for the key players in the old industrial relations system to jettison the old adversarial mindset and tactics and use the new laws to engage in meaningful consultation and collaboration. This is the only way to ensure that mutually beneficial outcomes are achieved for workers and businesses.
Unions should not see the new laws as an opportunity to turn the clock back to the bad old days. Only 14 per cent of private sector workers are members of trade unions and these are mostly in large enterprises. Unions must use their enhanced power in a responsible manner and work with business operators to make workplaces more productive. The electorate will judge the Fair Work Bill harshly if it perceives the law has increased disruption and compliance costs in the workplace.
The laws leave many of the implementation issues to Fair Work Australia. This body cannot be the Australian Industrial Relations Commission (AIRC) under another name. Fair Work Australia must change not only what the AIRC does, but how it does it. Fair Work Australia needs to ensure that the adversarial processes of the traditional system give way to a less legalistic approach, based on a range of administrative and inquisitorial processes. This will provide significant challenges for many of the players in the existing system.
Finally, the current public outcry about executive bonuses means that senior managers need to reassess how they distribute the benefits of any productivity improvements. This is not just between the profit share of labour and capital but more about how the wages share is distributed across the total workforce.
Australia is better placed than most countries to ride out the economic turmoil created by the global financial crisis. Fair Work must help us ride out the storm and not be seen as a way to increase power or advance personal agendas.”
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