The Australian Industry Group has  released a supplementary submission to the Fair Work Act Review in response to the unions' proposed changes to the Act.


"The unions have called for more restrictions on employers, wider arbitration powers for Fair Work Australia, more rights to strike, and more power in many other areas. It is vital that these claims are rejected," Australian Industry Group Chief Executive Heather Ridout said.


"The unions have already received many expanded rights under the Fair Work Act. In fact, when the Act was introduced over 120 new rights were given to unions in a range of areas1. Such powers need to be redressed and more balanced laws implemented.


"The Fair Work bargaining laws are less flexible and unions have much more power in the bargaining process than the laws implemented in 1993/94 when enterprise bargaining was first introduced. There is an urgent need to introduce a more productive, flexible and fair bargaining system.


"The unions want a different workplace relations system to the one in operation. They want one that gives them even more rights at the expense of employer rights and protections. Some of their more extreme proposals include:

  • The right to take industrial action over any matter during bargaining, rather than just 'permitted matters'. This would be disastrous for the economy.2
  • The right to organise and take industrial action across whole industries, which has never been allowed in Australia.3
  • The abolition of secret ballots for strikes, which would take away an important democratic right of workers and create the potential for coercion.4
  • Limiting casual employment to situations where the person works on a short term or irregular basis. This proposal flies in the face of numerous Court and Tribunal decisions which have recognised that a large proportion of casuals work on a regular, long-term basis and are happy with their arrangements.5
  • Giving employees the right to refuse to work more than 38 hours in any week. This proposal fails to take into account that many employees are engaged under work patterns where longer hours are regularly worked and employees are compensated in their salary package for such hours.6
  • Making the General Protections in the Act far broader and more uncertain than they already are,7 which would increase union power and prevent employers managing their businesses efficiently.

"It is extremely important that the Unions' claims are rejected. The outcomes from the Fair Work Act Review need to support the competitiveness of Australian businesses, increase productivity and flexibility, and reduce red tape.


"Ai Group's proposals to the Review Panel, which are set out in our main submission, are designed to make the Fair Work Act work better in our lopsided economy. Our proposals focus upon the need for Australia to manage the competitiveness challenges it faces and take advantage of the opportunities ahead.


"Based on the real life experiences of employers trying to implement and work within the Fair Work Act, the evidence shows that workplaces have become less flexible and industrial disputes have increased markedly since the Act was implemented. This is occurring at a time when Australia has become a high cost economy and flexibility and productivity growth are needed more than ever," Mrs Ridout said