In business sights over workplace laws ... Bill Shorten. Photo: LUIS ENRIQUE ASCUI
Senior business organisations have dismissed as procedural the government's initial response to the review of its industrial relations laws and will fight for wholesale change, including bringing back more robust independent agreements.
The union movement, also dissatisfied with the incremental changes announced yesterday, says it will not relent in fighting the demands of big business, warning the sector wanted a return to Work Choices-style conditions.
Three months after the release of an independent review of Labor's Fair Work Act, the legislation which replaced Work Choices, the Workplace Relations Minister, Bill Shorten announced yesterday the government would adopt 17 of the 51 recommendations.
The 17 recommendations were either technical or non-controversial and included changes to the unfair dismissal protections reintroduced by Labor.
These changes aligned the unfair-dismissal laws with general protection laws which, employers felt, were being abused to circumvent the limits Labor had placed on unfair dismissal claims.
Labor also agreed to a recommendation that the industrial watchdog, Fair Work Australia, sullied by its slow response to the Craig Thomson affair, should change its name. Mr Shorten said it would be called the Fair Work Commission but this defies the recommendations which says the titled of the body contain the word "Commission" but not "Fair Work".
The Australian Industry Group said yesterday's changes failed "to touch the sides on the most important issues".
They wanted the Individual Flexibility Agreements, which replaced the Howard government's Australian Workplace Agreements, tightened up so they were more attractive for employers. They demanded changes to stop unions being able to stipulate conditions that would apply to new projects, known as greenfield agreements. They also want fewer matters allowed to be incorporated into workplace-wide enterprise agreements because the more matters in an agreement, the greater range of issues on which to go on strike when agreements are being negotiated.
Mr Shorten has shelved a decision on all these matters until next year.