Australian Parliament House in Canberra

The Minerals Council of Australia (MCA) has urged the Federal Government to divide its workplace relations bill in an effort to advance the Association’s ongoing opposition to multi-employer bargaining.

The MCA claimed it would “be in the nation’s best interest” to remove multi-employer bargaining – and other contentious workplace relations changes – from its recently introduced Fair Work Legislation Amendment (Secure Jobs, Better Pay) Bill 2022.

Dividing the bill would allow the Federal Government to pass legislation to which the MCA (and other employer organisations) are not opposed.

The Federal Government has since responded to industry outcry, introducing several amendments to address employer concerns.

Multi-employer bargaining will allow unions to negotiate enterprise agreements with more than one employer at a time, increasing their bargaining power and allowing for industry-wide protected strike action.

Though currently banned, multi-employer bargaining persists in some heavily-unionised industries such as the construction sector.

MCA Chief Executive Officer, Tania Constable, said the contentious proposal should be given longer consideration and even suggested several grammatical errors evidenced that the bill process had been “rushed”.

“The MCA remains concerned that the bill may include further significant errors and consequences that have not been fully thought through, and urges the government to agree to extend the time frame for its review,” Ms Constable said.

The MCA claims that the legislation would result in an increased number of industrial disputes, rope employers into large and ‘inflexible’ agreements, and allegedly reduce productivity.

“The MCA would also like to address statements the government made yesterday in the media in which they were factually incorrect in saying that ‘most mines would already have in-term enterprise agreements’,” Ms Constable said.

“Only 40 per cent of mining workers are covered by enterprise agreements, 59 per cent are on individual agreements on terms that are better than both awards and enterprise agreements, and just one per cent are on award conditions. 

“Under the government’s changes, when an agreement passes its nominal expiry date, the employer will be exposed to multi-employer bargaining (even though the agreement is in force). This means that mines representing 60 per cent of the mining workforce would still be exposed to multi-employer bargaining under the government’s changes.

“The fact that an agreement is past its nominal expiry date does not mean the agreement is not working and should be opened up to multi-employer bargaining. It usually means the agreement is mature and reflects a balance between the workers and the employer that has developed over many negotiations.”

The proposed Fair Work Legislation Amendment (Secure Jobs, Better Pay) Bill 2022 is available in full, here.

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