Fair Work Act branded ‘difficult’

IR laws

Employers in the resources sector claim the Fair Work Act is making their life harder and see trouble ahead on the industrial relations front.

The survey, carried out by the Australian Mines and Metals Association (AMMA) in conjunction with RMIT University’s School of Economics, Finance and Marketing, found employer concerns about Labour’s workplace relations system were on the rise.

The first survey was undertaken amongst resources employers in April last year soon after the Fair Work Act came into effect. According to RMIT lecturer Steven Kates employer were willing to give the legislation a go awarding it a “very encouraging” index level of 75.9 out of a possible 100.
Dr Kates, who was the chief economist of the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, wrote a comment piece for The Australian on February 2, 2011.
“We now find, only six months later, that the index level has fallen to 65.1, a fall of more than 10 points. As more has been discovered, there has been a widespread and unmistakable deterioration in the overall level of satisfaction,” Dr Kates wrote.
AMMA Chief Executive Steve Knott says the new survey shows employer confidence in the Fair Work Act had fallen in the last six months and looks set to fall further.

“Previously issues associated with bargaining for new enterprise agreements including the new union monopoly on agreement making for major projects were of major concern to employers,” Knott says.

“In addition to these concerns, over the six months to October 2010 we saw the increased presence of union representatives on worksites and rising union right of entry demands adding to employer concerns within the sector.

“It is clear from our latest survey findings increased union activity both in negotiations, as well as in the workplace itself, are having a major impact on levels of confidence in workplace relations arrangements under the Fair Work Act,” Mr Knott said.

Other survey findings include:

  • A decline in the number of resource industry employers describing their workplace relations environment as either “good” or “excellent” from 54.4per cent to 32 per cent.
  • An increase in the number of employers who describe their workplace relations environment as ‘barely acceptable’ 4.4 per cent to 29.2 per cent.

Other major IR issues raised by respondents include:
  • inflated wage and condition claims and outcomes;
  • the prospect of protected or unprotected strike action;
  • termination of employment/redundancy concerns including the prospect of unfair dismissal claims; and,
  • the transition to modern awards.
The resources sector is making news for other reasons this week after the Australian Election Commission released data showing mining employers spent around $22 million campaigning against the Rudd Government’s mining tax.
According to reports in The Australian, the Minerals Council of Australia spent $17m, BHP Billiton more than $4.2m and Rio Tinto more than $537,000 in their own campaigns against the federal government’s plan to levy a 40 per cent tax on their ”super” profits.

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