News

Former ACTU boss eyes workplace reform

by
August 08, 2017

Former ACTU boss Martin Ferguson is calling for a review of industrial relations laws.

Former trade union boss Martin Ferguson is calling for workplace relations reform to be taken out of the "deep freezer" as he leads a mining industry push for change.

Mr Ferguson, who was also a former Labor resources minister, will use a speech to the Sydney Institute on Tuesday night to pressure the Turnbull government to review industrial relations laws.

The Minerals Council's new policy paper which he will launch calls for what it labels sensible changes, including removing the availability of protected industrial action over business decisions and confining enterprise agreements to direct employment matters.

Other recommendations include:

* Refocusing "adverse action" provisions to ensure they don't interfere unreasonably with management decision-making.

* More balanced right-of-entry laws.

* Reforming greenfield agreements to help get new investment projects off the ground.

* Letting workers chose between enterprise agreements or individual employment agreements if they earn above a high-income threshold, which could be set at $142,000 a year.

Mr Ferguson will argue adverse action provisions have been drafted so badly they go beyond protecting freedom of association and preventing discrimination.

He will insist Australia must improve productivity given the uncertain economic outlook.

"Today, many of our political leaders seem to have forgotten the lessons of history," he will say.

The council argues its proposals are not intended to upend the existing system or undermine modern awards.

Rather its proposals identify areas of reforms which will improve workplace relations and help the mining industry continue to create well-paid jobs.

"The problem is that, in reaction to WorkChoices, the Fair Work Act has swung the pendulum back too far in some areas," Mr Ferguson will say.

"Neither side of politics helps Australia's employees or its employers by running scare campaigns on workplace relations - nor by running scared of workplace relations reforms."

Labor leader Bill Shorten, a former colleague of Mr Ferguson, agrees there needs to be reform to the Fair Work Act, but not in the way the big mining companies want.

"When the Minerals Council want to have some sort ideological war against paying their workers more in this section of the industry - a rich industry, by and large - well, you just know they're telling the government, 'do the bidding of big business'," he told reporters in Canberra.

"We say to the Minerals Council we're up for co-operation, we're up for productivity but we're not up for seeing workers getting a dud deal."

By
More in National
Login Sign Up

Dummy text