Home > ACTU, Labor attack industrial relations inquiry

ACTU, Labor attack industrial relations inquiry

Editorial
article image ACTU President Ged Kearney.

The union movement has attacked the Productivity Commission’s inquiry into industrial relations, saying it will reduce rights and conditions for Australian workers.

As the ABC reports, a discussion paper (which is the first stage of the inquiry) was leaked yesterday.

ACTU President Ged Kearney (pictured) said in a statement the Government initiated the inquiry “to pursue its obsession with workplace relations and issues like penalty rates and individual contracts.”

“The Government wants this process to take workers backwards but we are determined to push for improvements,” she added.

She said the ACTU wrote to Employment Minister Eric Abetz and told him that the government should halt its workplace relations legislative agenda until the completion of the Heydon royal commission and the Productivity Commission inquiry into the Fair Work Act.

Kearney said unions will use the inquiry to advocate for improvements to minimum and award wages, and to reduce poverty and inequality.

“Unions will oppose any move to cut wages, while measures to stop the lowest paid Australians from falling further behind the middle will form part of the ACTU’s submission,” she said.

According to Labor employment spokesman Brendan O’Connor, the inquiry will result in “an all-out assault on workers’ wages and conditions”.

As the ABC reports, Employment Minister Eric Abetz said no recommendations from the report will be acted on before the next Federal Election.

"Whatever recommendations we believe are appropriate for the Fair Work framework, we will then seek a mandate at the 2016 election, well in time for people to determine whether or not recommended changes that we may adopt are good for our nation," Senator Abetz said.

Steve Smith from the Australian Industry group, welcomed the discussion paper.

"Workplace relations reform shouldn't be a dirty word, we really need to look at what sorts of changes need to be made to give not only employers but employees the flexibility that 21st century workplaces need," he said.

The discussion paper looks at awards and penalty rates and asks if they should be simplified, changed, swapped for time-off-in-lieu or scrapped.

It asks about how effective the minimum wage is, could it be different in different states, and could it be replaced with changes to the tax system.

And it also deals with bargaining and enterprise agreements, among other things.

The final report is due in November.

Image: ACTU

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