Businesses fear losing control over Labor’s workplace reforms

The state’s businesses wanted wages to increase, but were fearful of the way the Albanese Government was going about it, according to the Queensland Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

Dec 01, 2022, updated Dec 01, 2022
CCIQ chief executive Heidi Cooper.

CCIQ chief executive Heidi Cooper.

According to the results of its survey, 75 per cent of employers feared they would lose control over their business and 80 per cent believed wage costs would increase.

The survey followed the introduction into Federal Parliament of the Albanese Government’s industrial relations reforms which allow for multi-business wage bargaining. The Bill was expected to be approved by the Senate on Thursday.

Multi-business bargaining, the key reform, was designed as a way of increase wages which had been stagnant for a decade and were now well behind inflation.

Small business with fewer than 20 staff will be excluded from the multi-employer bargaining and those with fewer than 50 would have extra safeguards if they want to opt out.

CCIQ chief executive Heidi Cooper said 80 per cent of businesses surveyed said being compelled to bargain on wages in a new enterprise agreement would have damaging or extremely damaging impacts on their business.

About two thirds believed they would employ fewer staff and a third said they would have to scale back their business to combat the impact of the legislation.

But a large number of employers were unaware of the reforms and almost 70 per cent said they did not have the internal skills to deal with the reforms.

The Australian Council of Trade Unions countered with its own survey of 3000 people which found that low wages and the current cost-of-living crisis means that a quarter of respondents had skipped meals to save money, 21 per cent had been forced to sell assets and 14 per cent had moved to more affordable accommodation.

ACTU secretary Sally McManus has also said their reforms were not an attempt to unionise small business and the current low level of union membership would restrict the extent of multi-business bargaining.

The ACTU said the reforms would also help tackle the gender wage gap and claimed that women currently working under collective agreements were earning $102 a week more than those who were not on collective agreements.

However, Cooper said lifting productivity was the way to improve wages, not reducing the control of employers to manage their own operations.

“Businesses are best placed to determine what is reasonable for their workplace needs,” she said.

“We’re looking to ensure businesses will be protected from negative impacts likely to come from the proposed multi-employer bargaining changes.

“We know Queensland businesses are at a critical time and it’s essential they have access to strong, diverse and sustainable workforces.

CCIQ said there was concern about the Fair Work Commission being used to conciliate and arbitrate on flexible work contract disputes as well as restrictions on some of the conditions in the contract.

About a third of the business surveyed by CCIQ said they relied on the fixed term contracts for some positions and certain projects.



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