Employer groups hit out at Burke’s IR truce plan

Article by Dan Jervis-Bardy courtesy of the West Australian.

Business groups have dismissed the Federal Government’s concessions on its industrial relations Bill as they renew calls for the controversial legislation to be scrapped.

Workplace Relations Minister Tony Burke, pictured, has agreed to amend some of his proposed changes relating to casuals, after lobbying from the Australian Hotels Association’s national branch.

An entire section of the contentious Closing Loopholes Bill which would have exposed bosses to civil penalties for misclassifying casual workers will be scrapped.

The Government will also clarify that workers can still meet the definition of a casual employee — even if they fill a “regular pattern of work”.

AHA chief executive Stephen Ferguson celebrated the amendments as a win for workers and bosses.

“We are very pleased that the minister listened, and he has now ensured that casuals who want to remain casuals can do so — that’s a great benefit to workers and employers alike,” he said. But other leading employer groups have rubbished the concessions.

Business Council of Australia chief executive Bran Black said that the tweaks would do nothing to address the “fundamental concerns” it has with the legislation. “No amount of ad hoc changes will fix a flawed Bill,” Mr Black said. “If the Government wants to stop unintended consequences as stated, they need to scrap the Bill and start again with proper consultation.”

Minerals Council of Australia chief executive Tania Constable said the concessions could make things even more complicated for small businesses.

“These phony amendments won’t help small businesses with the fundamental problem, which is the complex definition of casuals that is three pages long and has 15 different tests,” she said.

The change to the definition of casual employment is just one part of the Bill, which also proposes a crackdown on companies using labour hire to undercut wages of staff, minimum standards for gigeconomy workers and criminalising wage theft.

The MCA has been leading the fight on behalf of the big miners, revealing last week that it expects to spend up to $24 million campaigning against Labor’s industrial relations agenda.

“This legislation is completely irredeemable,” Ms Constable said on Tuesday.

“You cannot fix it with Tipp-Ex and Post-it notes. It needs a complete rewrite. The Government needs to head back to the drawing board and start again instead of scrambling to add poorly worded amendments.”