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Message from the CEO: 20 March 2017

March 20, 2017

This week, the Federal Opposition has indicated it will move a private members bill to retrospectively legislate against any cuts to penalty rates, after the independent Fair Work Commission’s ruling of a reduction in five out of the 122 modern awards.

While it was an entirely independent decision, made by a Commission who thoroughly examined the case for years, not months, we’re all well aware of how politics works, and that it would be almost impossible to find a politician who’d pass up the opportunity to politicise such a controversial and high value decision.

However, a private members bill takes this issue far beyond political rhetoric.

For a political party to attempt to stop the ruling of an independent body (the same one it set up to prevent this kind of problem in the first place), is disquieting, and should sound alarm bells for everyone, no matter how you feel about penalty rates.

This is an attempt to leverage political power to undermine the independence of our entire industrial relations system. We can’t tell the umpire that because we didn’t like the score we’ll just be setting our own, thank you very much.

So why do we have a political party doing the same to the FWC?

This bill would render the FWC decision inoperable, and cripple the Commission’s ability to vary any modern award that would reduce the take-home pay of any current or future worker. Not now, not ever.

And it could set a dangerous precedent for all independent ruling bodies in this country, as it effectively allows governments to overturn FWC decisions retrospectively.

So amid a worrying campaign designed to undermine the FWC’s due process, we’re asking all our members to focus on facts over fiction, and support the independence of the IR system:

  1. The ruling only applies to five of the 122 awards.
  2. Penalty rates are not being abolished.
  3. In these five awards, penalty rates have been given a moderate reduction, which are yet to be implemented and are likely to be implemented incrementally.
  4. The rates of awards like nursing and emergency services have not changed and are not under threat.
  5. The decision affects around three to four per cent of the total Australian workforce, most whom are employed by small to medium-sized businesses, not big companies.

It is also important to note that these changes actually address some of Australia’s growing concerns around under employment and this will allow more employers to create more permanency for those workers who have in the past not been offered a more permanent role, so we will also up the ante on pushing for these changes to be implemented within the next two years, not five, so you can get on with the job of growing your businesses, employing more Australians, and supporting the economy.

Have a good week.

Dominique Lamb

NRA Media

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