More Problems With Closing the Loopholes Law

Australian Higher Education Industrial Association

The Australian Higher Education Industrial Association (AHEIA) has raised concerns over new industrial laws that are poised to hinder enterprise bargaining within the higher education sector, potentially impeding productivity and stifling salary rises.

According to AHEIA, additional changes to the newly introduced (yet to be untested) intractable bargaining declaration provisions in the Fair Work Act, driven by the Greens, have created a situation where unions can effectively “grandfather” provisions that are no longer fit for purpose, inhibiting productivity gains. This leaves the Fair Work Commission powerless to value add through arbitration, as they are restricted by the new legislative mandate to make individual terms “no less favourable” than existing provisions.

AHEIA Executive Director, Mr. Laughton, emphasized, “The new law effectively strips the Fair Work Commission of the ability to genuinely address productivity-related issues. The change to the law will result in a “term by term” focus, resulting in antiquated and unproductive provisions being retained to the detriment of staff and employers. Salaries are likely to be dampened without efficiencies and productivity offsets.”

“The new law directly affects the ability to improve productivity” Mr. Laughton continued, “which the Governor of the Reserve Bank of Australia has identified as crucial for the nation’s economic efficiency and growth. We support the RBA’s querying of the new IR framework and its ability to act as a productivity catalyst rather than an inhibitor.”

Expressing concerns over the imbalance in bargaining power, Mr. Laughton stated, “All negotiations comprise offers of compromise and trade-offs on both sides. From now on, this will be limited by law in Australia, with one side calling the shots and an umpire without a whistle.” The new arrangements are likely to lead to less job growth, less job security and ultimately lower pay outcomes for staff in the absence of genuine compromises that might be reached through genuine unfettered bargaining.

Mr. Laughton urged for a reconsideration of the provisions in the law and advocated for the restoration of the Fair Work Commission’s ability to act as a truly independent umpire. He also pointed out that the Federal Government had already agreed to amend another failure in the new laws that criminalise non-compliance by employers, suggesting a bundle of changes to address intractable bargaining along with this amendment.

/Public Release.