Unions draw new battle lines over “failing” FWC
In a speech delivered to the National Press Club on Wednesday, ACTU secretary Sally McManus vowed to draw new battle lines over Australia’s “failing” enterprise bargaining system, claiming that the Fair Work Commission (FWC) is stacked in the favour of employers.
“The few tools – the very few tools – workers have to fight for fairness have been stolen or excessively, relentlessly curtailed, restricted and regulated. We are holding a toothpick, whilst employers have jackhammers,” McManus said.
“Increasingly, the system is failing, and huge numbers of people are being forced onto awards which have been hollowed out and don’t offer enough protection for working people against the power of big business.”
The ACTU is calling for an overhaul of enterprise bargaining to remove “excessive regulation” that prevents unions from negotiate with whoever sets the price of labour rather than voluntary management committees.
McManus savaged the “weakness” of the Fair Work Commission in standing up for employees, saying it had been stacked by the Coalition.
“The weakness of our industrial umpire is part of the reason why we see this escalation in wage theft. It should be quick and easy for working people to enforce their rights. We need to put Fairness back into the Fair Work Commission,” she said.
McManus also reiterated her call for a $50 dollar increase to the minimum wage in her speech, billed by the union as a “landmark” address as part of its new “Change the Rules” campaign.
National Retailers Association CEO Dominique Lamb has criticised McManus’ comments, rejecting the ACTU’s recommendations and warning that they would “cripple” small business.
“Australian retail is currently experiencing a challenging period, evidenced by the sluggish sales figures released in the last two ABS retail trade reports and further burdens would have a crippling effect on the sector,” Lamb said.
The NRA made headlines earlier this month after advocating for a freeze in the minimum wage in its submission to the Fair Work Commission’s annual wage consultation process.
Other employer groups such as the Australian Retailers Association (ARA) advocated for an increase in line with inflation.
— National Press Club (@PressClubAust) 21 March 2018
The ACTU is also calling for the rules to be changed to force employers to offer casual workers permeant positions after six months of continuous work.
But Lamb said this was already rejected by the FWC and called on the ACTU to respect the ruling of the independent umpire.
“The independent Fair Work Commission – which was setup under the previous Labor Government – has already rejected a move to force employers to convert casual employees to permanent positions after six months,” she said.
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