The Morrison government has abandoned plans to allow more scope for enterprise agreements that fail the better off overall test.
Industrial Relations Minister Christian Porter on Tuesday dumped the most contentious part of the Coalition’s workplace reform package.
It would have allowed the Fair Work Commission to greenlight enterprise agreements that did not meet the better off overall test if coronavirus impact could be shown.
Crossbench senators raised serious concerns with the provision, meaning the bill was likely doomed if the better off over all test changes remained.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison attempted to pressure Labor into supporting the industrial relations omnibus bill.
He said the legislation ensured people would have a stronger pathway for casual conversion and introduce new penalties for wage theft.
“Is Labor going to drop the politics now and get on with it so we can get people back into jobs?” Mr Morrison said.
“Or are they going to cling on to this as a way of continuing to engage in a political debate here in Canberra?”
Labor’s industrial relations spokesman Tony Burke said the scrapped changes to the better off overall test showed the government’s intent.
“They’re only backing off because it’s clear they can’t get this unfair change through the Senate,” he said.
“But now we know what they want to do. They want to cut workers’ take-home pay – and if they get another chance they’ll try again.”
One Nation senator Malcolm Roberts, whose party controls two Senate votes, welcomed the government sinking the provision.
“This is a win for ensuring that workers will not be left worse off,” he said.
Unions and Labor remain opposed to the bill because of a raft of other changes to workplace laws.
Employer groups believe dropping the better off overall changes paves the way for the bill to be passed.
The ACTU is concerned the Fair Work Commission would be forced to sign off on enterprise agreements within 21 days.
The union peak body also argues employers would no longer have to properly explain new agreements, provide copies to workers or tell employees when bargaining has started.
“Bargaining is how wages improve, and these changes will leave workers worse off and with fewer rights,” ACTU president Michele O’Neil said.
“We will continue to discuss the effect that this bill will have on the lives of working people and on the economic recovery from the pandemic recession with the crossbench and why it should be opposed.”
Business Council of Australia chief executive Jennifer Westacott said the focus could return to sensible and modest reform in the package.
“If we fail to make these important changes to the system, we risk condemning Australia to the slow lane and missing out on opportunities.”
Australian Industry Group chief executive Innes Willox said the industrial relations changes deserved the support of all parties.
“Not surprisingly, the unions have dusted off the same old scare campaign that they always run whenever any balanced and moderate IR changes are proposed,” he said.