Streamlining awards and overhauling enterprise bargaining agreements is worth it for working people, the head of Australia’s largest union says.
Australian Council of Trade Unions head Sally McManus says she will be genuinely listening to employers’ groups.
“We’re going to give it a go and we reckon that’s worth it for working people,” Ms McManus told Nine’s Today show on Wednesday.
We welcome to opportunity to discuss with employers and the government how build a better and fairer country as outlined by the Prime Minister in his Press Club speech
— Sally McManus (@sallymcmanus) May 26, 2020
The meetings are part of the federal government’s “JobMaker” plan announced on Tuesday.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the government would shelve its union-busting Ensuring Integrity Bill as a sign of good faith ahead of the latest effort to reform Australia’s industrial relations system.
Five working groups will look at changes designed to help coronavirus recovery.
They will review awards, enterprise bargaining agreements, casual work, union and employer misconduct and greenfields – agreements that set flat wages and conditions throughout the lifetime of a construction project.
“I think for a long time we’ve been in our corners and seen things through a prism of WorkChoices really,” Ms McManus said.
Mr Morrison said it was time for all parties involved to “put down their weapons”.
“It’s a consensus-based process,” Mr Morrison told the ABC on Wednesday.
But asked if he would guarantee that workers won’t be worse off after the negotiations, Mr Morrison said the debate shouldn’t be so black and white.
But Industrial Relations Minister Christian Porter said the whole point of the talks, which will continue until September, was to ensure people were better off.
“How different parties to this consultation and negotiation process measure whether or not someone is better off is going to differ from party to party,” he said in Perth.
“The whole point of the process is we want people to be better off because you’re much worse off if you don’t have a job.”
He expected each of the working groups to produce “solutions”, but admitted the level of agreement around some of those solutions would vary.
Business Council of Australia chief executive Jennifer Westacott said employers were willing to put the past behind them.
“We are all doing this for the people who need their jobs back,” she told ABC.
The Business Council will be at the table working constructively to drive the recovery by reshaping the workplace relations system so employers can create more jobs and workers can share the gains of higher wages and improved conditions.
— Jennifer Westacott (@JAWestacott) May 26, 2020
She welcomed news the government had ditched laws making it easier to de-register unions and ban officials.
“We need to focus on the task at hand,” Ms Westacott said.