In Australia, since John Hewson’s Fightback! package was released in 1991, the major political parties have, in opposition, been cautious about committing to significant ‘courageous’ reforms in the lead up to a Federal election.
The Labor opposition under Bill Shorten has defied this caution in releasing a detailed reform agenda which includes significant proposed reforms in the area of workplace relations.
At Labor’s campaign launch in Queensland, Shorten announced a key priority, if elected, is the introduction of a ‘living wage’, and the reversal of recent penalty rate cuts to workers.
At the launch, Shorten made clear other key priorities were:
‘A new push for equal pay for women. A better deal for casuals. Cracking down on the abuse of 457 visas. Cleaning up labour hire.’
Labor’s reform agenda involves a range of changes to the workplace laws known as ‘Fair Work’ introduced by the previous Rudd/Gillard Labor Government including:
The reform agenda also includes the introduction of the concept of a ‘living wage’ to replace the current minimum wage which is reviewed on an annual basis by the Fair Work Commission. A precise mechanism for the determination of a ‘living wage’ is not addressed in detail in Labor’s reform agenda. The rhetoric from Shorten at Labor’s campaign launch does make clear that the aim of the mechanism will be to substantially increase the amount of minimum wages in Australia:
‘If we win this election (Labor’s) priority is not making the very rich even richer it is getting wages moving for working people…(which have been stagnant under the Coalition Government)…’
Other significant aspects of Labor’s reform agenda include the active discouragement of the use of ‘insecure’ employment, the restoration of penalty rates for Sunday work and public holidays and the abolition of the Australian Building and Construction Commission.
Our list of Labor’s top 10 proposed changes as part of its reform agenda for workplace relations is below.
We would be happy to discuss strategic issues and appropriate responses for your business if Shorten Labor wins the upcoming Federal election on Saturday 18 May 2019.
Labor aims to reduce the incidence of ‘insecure work’ including casual employment.
An objective test will be introduced into the Fair Work laws to determine when a worker is a casual employee.
Labor aims to support work arrangements that are consistent with workers preferences.
Labor will strengthen the ability of employees to request flexible work arrangements and rights to challenge decisions of an employer not to agree to a request from a worker.
Labor will establish a national labour hire licencing scheme to regulate the industry.
Labor will also legislate to guarantee that labour hire workers receive the same pay and conditions as directly employed workers doing the same work.
A National minimum standard for long service leave, which shall form part of the national employment standards.
Labor will introduce 10 days paid domestic violence leave as a workplace right in the National employment standards.
A minimum wage that provides a ‘living wage’ and will maintain or improve the relative living standards of low paid workers.
Labor will reverse the reductions to penalty rates for work on Sundays and public holiday brought about by the recent Penalty Rates Decision of the Fair Work Commission.
Labor will make gender pay equity an object of the Fair Work laws.
A new pay equity panel will be established within the commission that will provide expert research support during equal remuneration matters.
Labour will ensure that enterprise agreements are genuinely agreed to by a representative cohort of the workers to which they apply.
A mechanism to enable for the termination of all remaining enterprise agreements made under the WorkChoices laws.
Labor will also prevent the unilateral termination of Enterprise agreements where this would reduce entitlements for workers.
This communication provides general information which is current as at the time of production. The information contained in this communication does not constitute advice and should not be relied upon as such. Professional advice should be sought prior to any action being taken in reliance on any of the information. Should you wish to discuss any matter raised in this article, or what it means for you, your business or your clients' businesses, please feel free to contact us.