Power to the bosses: business preparing for IR shake-up as Abbott promises change

Business is gearing up for a post-election push to reshape Australia’s industrial relations landscape if the Coalition wins office: weakening unfair dismissal protections, cutting penalty rates and trading off conditions under the guise of ‘flexibility’, the ACTU said.

Tony Abbott has today admitted there would be “all sorts of changes” to IR under a Coalition Government.

The Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry’s policy blueprint released today is just the latest missive from business arguing for wholesale changes to industrial relations laws that would deliver more power in the workplace to employers, said ACTU Secretary Dave Oliver.

ACCI’s vision includes: restricting the kinds of issues workers can have a say over in their workplace, making it easier for workers to be sacked or lose conditions when businesses are sold, making workers trade off conditions like penalty rates in order to get flexible work arrangements, winding back unfair dismissal protections for employees and making it harder for unions to visit workplaces.

The blueprint also urges that unions’ ability to bargain around job security issues like contracting out be removed and that anti-discrimination laws be watered down. It is calling for urgent action on industrial action from the next Federal Government.

“The Coalition has already agreed to many of their asks, including a Productivity Commission review of the Fair Work Act,” said Mr Oliver.

“ACCI is also calling for a further inquiry into the impact of modern awards on retail and hospitality – this is nothing but a plan to cut penalty rates.

Business groups are out in force campaigning for cuts to wages and work rights and they know that after the election, if the Coalition wins office, they’ll get their way.

“We even see the boss of Fletcher Building out today saying Australia needs ‘a dose of Margaret Thatcher’ – even though Thatcher’s legacy has done nothing to prevent the UK from a double-dip recession.”

In a press conference today, Mr Abbott said on swinging the workplace relations pendulum back towards employers: ‘there are all sorts of changes that we will be making.’

Mr Abbott now needs to come clean on what all those changes are, said Mr Oliver.

“We know rights and conditions are at risk under Mr Abbott’s ‘Individual Flexibility Agreements’. We know it will be harder to bargain for a fair collective deal at work and be represented by a union at work.

“We know business groups will go after penalty rates and the Coalition will give them the platform to do it.

“Mr Abbott must also release the terms of reference for its Productivity Commission inquiry so we know what else could be on the chopping block.”