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Contracting – a crisis of fairness, competition and freedom of trade

Let’s get those vested snouts out of the trough of complexity

The Productivity Commission needs to confront this problem

COSBOA held a round table on ‘Contracting’ last week in Sydney. The event was attended by representatives from key industry groups and key regulators including the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) and the Fair Work Ombudsman (FWO). It is obvious the Productivity Commission needs to look at this issue.

Peter Strong, CEO of COSBOA, said today “if workplace regulations continue to become more complicated and all or even some of the current demands from the ACTU become fact, then we will be recommending that any small business person who wants to keep their house and their health should not employ any other person directly. They should instead use contractors or labour hire firms. The risk of getting fined or even being sent to jail for not achieving total compliance with complicated processes will be too high.”

Mr Strong added “the discussion during the round table was robust and very quickly focused on defining the problems we face. We discovered that even defining the problem was a great difficulty. To assist in furthering this important discussion we have published a communique with our views, based on what was discussed and debated. The communique is attached to this release and also on our website. There are certainly some big issues to be resolved.”

If a person wants to be a contractor or is genuinely happy to be a contractor, then should they be?

At what stage should a contractor be deemed as an employee, if at all?

How do we stop some employers taking advantage of some workers?

Are our regulators doing enough and if not why not? (COSBOA believes our regulators are world class, not perfect but who is?)

Do regulators have enough power?

Are regulations fit for purpose or has the world moved past their initial purpose?

Mr Strong also added “there is a significant issue associated with the fair operation and regulation of contractors in the Australian workplace and this issue is not as ‘cut and dry’ as some commentators suggest. The issues differ from industry to industry and simple one-size-fits-all solutions are not working. The Productivity Commission needs to take up the challenge and give industry and unions some detailed proposals to work with by holding a review into this issue. In the review they should consider the impact on employment of continued complexity and the threat to a small business person’s health and assets. The new world of work is here now. The current old-fashioned regulations are a clear and present danger to employment and health. Let’s identify the problems and fix them.”

COSBOA notes that Justice Ross, the Head of the Fair Work Commission, is working hard on removing archaic language from awards and making them simpler. But he is being resisted by the ACTU and many suppliers of workplace relations support, or as we call them “money hungry snouts in the trough of complexity”.


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