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Industrial relation bill sets new controversial changes – November 2022

Labor is confident that its industrial relations bill will pass this year after a deal with the senator David Pocock to boost safeguards for small and medium businesses, and regularly review the adequacy of welfare payments. The bill will encourage new multi-employer pay deals, targeting sectors such as childcare which, the government argues, will help push wages up.

However, the bill is opposed by some major employer groups, who argue the changes will burden businesses with lengthy and complex negotiations and increase the likelihood of industrial action. A change to exclude businesses with fewer than 20 employees from the single-interest bargaining stream, rather than the previous threshold of 15 employees will restrict a larger number of workplaces from accessing multi-employer bargaining.


Another recommendation was curtailing the ability of smaller trade unions to frustrate the bargaining process. Currently, the bill requires the written approval of every employee organization that is a party to multi-employer agreement before it can be put to a vote. The Australian Industry Group expressed concern that this amounted to a veto power for smaller unions that played a minor role within a workplace.

A final change will look to incorporate having an independent panel established every year to review the level of support payments — such as JobSeeker — ahead of each federal budget. This advice will then be provided to the government to be published at least a fortnight before the budget is handed down.


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