AUSTRALIA’S peak meat processor association and employees’ union are in stark disagreement on the worth of the Albanese Government’s Fair Work Legislation Amendment (Secure Jobs, Better Pay) Bill 2022.
The Australian Meat Industry Council this week said the Bill will undermine the system of enterprising bargaining that has delivered many significant benefits to Australia over several decades and currently operated effectively in the red meat sector and others.
The council does not support multi-employer bargaining and believes it should be up businesses to decided how they engage in the industrial relations system.
AMIC chief executive officer Patrick Hutchinson says that there has not been adequate consultation during the lead up to the bill and that the time period for submissions was not acceptable.
“AMIC were not consulted in the lead up to the Bill and we understand very little consultation was undertaken with other business and employer groups.
“Allowing two weeks to provide feedback on a Bill of the size and complexity of the Secure Jobs, Better Pay Bill is entirely inadequate and does not allow stakeholders to provide informed feedback,” he said.
“AMIC supports the autonomy of businesses to choose how they engage based on the needs of individual business considerations.
“The multi-employer bargaining provisions will force businesses to adopt a one size fits all approach and in turn, will threaten the viability of businesses,” he said.
“These provisions will result in conditions which cannot successfully be managed by all nominated businesses, and perversely, will not necessarily mean all covered workers are better off across all businesses.
“Forcing businesses into bargaining will increase industrial activity as businesses are forced to negotiate on terms which may be untenable for their business and circumstances,” Mr Hutchinson said.
“The provisions will limit expansion and further employment opportunities as businesses negotiate and navigate new employment conditions.
“Multi-employer bargaining should only occur where an employer voluntarily agrees to participate,” he said.
AMIC believes if the Bill is passed, employers would face an increased threat of forced conciliation and arbitration regarding requests for flexible working arrangements.
“The flexible work and arbitration provision contained within this Bill infringes on an employer’s right to make independent and appropriate business decisions.
“Moving forward, AMIC expects to collaborate with Government and other key stakeholders on the proposed legislation to ensure workable solutions for all parties,” Mr Hutchinson said.
Current legislation has increased job insecurity – AMIEU
Acting federal secretary of the Australasian Meat Industry Employees’ Union, Matt Journeaux, said AMIC complains about any infringement of the ‘flexibility’ currently enjoyed by employers.
“However, over the last eight years, employers in the industry have exercised that flexibility to increase job insecurity, undermine collective bargaining outcomes through labour hire arrangements, and employ foreign labour on lower rates of pay than Australian workers.
“In those circumstances, the AMIEU is not surprised that the meat industry finds it difficult to attract workers,” he said.
“I consider the Federal Government’s legislation to be both a measured and appropriate response to the power imbalance between workers and bosses that the previous government created.
“AMIC’s response is almost hysterical, and they need to take a cold shower on this one.”
Mr Journeaux said wages and employment levels in the meat processing sector depend on a range of factors, including the state of international markets.
“The AMIEU believes the changes to the Fair Work legislation will help remove the imbalance in industrial relations that developed under the Liberal National Party government, and will in turn improve workers’ ability to organise and bargain for improved wages and conditions.”
“The AMIEU does not believe that these changes, by themselves, will affect the labour shortage situation in the meat processing industry,” he said.
“The AMIEU notes that the short-sightedness of meat industry employers has contributed significantly to its current labour shortage problems.
“Correcting these problems will require more specific, targeted measures, and the AMIEU is constructively engaged with both government and industry in developing responses to the issue.”
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