IR bill threatens jobs and economy, say WA businesses


Chris Rodwell

Tens of thousands of WA workplaces are set to be damaged by the Federal Government’s industrial relations bill, according to a Chamber of Commerce and Industry WA (CCIWA) snap business survey [read now]. This is the first comprehensive survey of business attitudes on the IR legislation released anywhere in the nation. In response to the Government’s proposed IR legislation, WA businesses are poised to reduce staff, limit operations, shift overseas or even shut their doors. 


The worst of the impacts would come from businesses losing control of setting work arrangements, with around 34,000 workplaces potentially at risk of employing fewer staff in the years ahead if the changes proceed. The impact of multi-employer bargaining is of a similar magnitude, with around 30,000 workplaces at risk.


Nine in 10 WA businesses (92%) said they would be “damaged” by measures which reduce their ability to set work arrangements with their own staff, with three in five (58%) describing the damage as “extreme”. 


More than four in five (87%) said their business would be damaged by multi-employer bargaining, which would force them into more complex, inflexible and unsuitable agreements.


These are the honest views of WA businesses of all sizes and across all sectors. They reflect that this IR legislation, which seeks to secure jobs and better pay, is more likely to do the opposite. It provides more than enough evidence that this legislation, at the very least, should be split, removing the most contentious parts of the Bill for which the Federal Government does not have a mandate. The fact is that an appropriate process of consultation with the business community has not been followed. It has been rushed. The Federal Government and the Federal Parliament do not yet fully appreciate the potential ramifications.


Our evidence shows the impact could put the Australian economy at risk. That’s not scaremongering; it’s what the numbers say. Cool heads and common sense must prevail. In an era of uncertainty we can ill afford legislation that puts the livelihoods of so many small and family businesses across WA, and the rest of the nation, at risk.


In contrast to the Government’s approach, WA businesses said they could increase wages if it were easier to strike mutually beneficial enterprise agreements (44%), and if awards were simpler (65%). These are precisely what CCIWA advised the Government ahead of the Jobs and Skills Summit. Asked what else the Government could do to make it easier to pay higher wages and employ more people, WA businesses overwhelmingly pointed to reduce regulatory burdens (77%) and lower taxes (54%). 


CCIWA will travel to Canberra this month to make strong representations on behalf of our 8,000 members. It is critical that the Federal Government split out these controversial measures to enable meaningful consultation with employers and substantial redrafting. 


Read CCIWA’s snap business survey results


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