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Industrial relations: collaboration key to change

COSBOA welcomes the comments made by Opposition Leader, Anthony Albanese, in his speech to the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (ACCI) today. Mr Albanese highlighted the need to build a dialogue between government, business, and unions in order to increase both profits and wages, acknowledging the work already done by COSBOA and the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) to make the industrial relations simpler and fairer.

COSBOA CEO Alexi Boyd said “COSBOA has long been committed to collaborating with stakeholders, including governments and unions, to create a simplified industrial relations system that benefits small businesses. For change to happen, we need to talk – this was the reasoning behind the Government’s IR Reform Working Groups in 2020, after all.”

“The fact of the matter is that the award and enterprise bargaining system for determining wages and working conditions is too complex and time consuming for small business owners. They remain in the quagmire of a system which they can’t navigate. This is a position that has been advanced for COSBOA by many years, and one which we brought to the IR Reform Working Groups.”

Australia’s IR system has long been in need of repair, with numerous failed attempts to address the realm issues of productivity and wage growth. First there was Work Choices that was ultimately spurned at the 2007 Election on the basis it did not do enough for employees. Then there was the Change the Rules campaign that was ultimately rejected at the 2019 election on the basis that it was too anti-business.

Ms Boyd continued “Combative discussions and an ‘us versus them’ mentality don’t further this cause. They’re part of why IR negotiations have been going nowhere.

“Australia’s problems have not been fixed because everyone has thrown stones at each other from a position of zero compromise. We need to find a way to resolve an impasse that has existed for more than 20 years - and that means talking genuinely and openly about how to make the system work better for employers and employees alike - especially small businesses”

“Following the Government’s IR Reform Working Groups, COSBOA began open and constructive conversations with the ACTU to move industrial relations reform forward. We share a desire to reform the system with the ACTU, who are looking after the needs of workers, and the BCA, who are looking after the interests of business.

Ms Boyd added “We anticipate some other employer groups in the IR Club to take issue with the fact that COSBOA engages in dialogue with the so-called ‘other side’, just as they did during the Attorney General’s working Groups of 2020 and 2021. We would argue that those who have a problem with open, solutions-focused dialogue don’t actually have the interests of small business owners – or the interest of workers – at heart.”

“In a small business, employers and employees have to work alongside each other every day. Disagreement and confusion about the workplace relations system puts a strain on these relationships and hampers productivity. It’s in our best interests to try to reach consensus on a system that meets the needs of both groups of human beings.”

Ms Boyd concluded “Regardless of who is in power after the 21st of May, COSBOA is looking forward to continuing this good work to simplify the IR system for the benefit of both small businesses and their workers.”


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