25 May 2012

Time for industrial relations overhaul

Letter to The Australian Financial Review: Dick Warburton, Executive Chairman, Manufacturing Australia

As well as anti-dumping, carbon tax, regulation and access to resources, a review of how employers engage with employees is vital to sustaining a productive industry that affords business competitiveness and manufacturing job security.
Manufacturing Australia welcomes Fair Work Australia vice-president Graeme Watson’s recent comments, which put all parties on notice that the time has come to turn-up the calibre of the industrial relations debate rather than simply re-hashing bygone clichés.
Current legislation extends collective bargaining rights beyond matters directly related to the employment relationship and the specific needs of the local enterprise unit. The result of this protracted and inefficient bargaining is costly on time and resources and irrelevant to employees’ circumstances or those of the business.
If we are to maximise productivity and competitiveness in Australian manufacturing, employees and employers need to work collaboratively towards outcomes driven by best interests of the company and, by definition, its employees. This is supported preferably through individual arrangements, and where necessary, collective agreements with employees.
Removing the legislated default of third party employee representation and adopting an emphasis on direct engagement between employees and employers is the most effective way to build understanding of customer, employee and business needs.
It is fundamental that this be recognised in the Fair Work Act review.