The government says it will take a “couple of months” for the first pay rises to reach workers’ pockets should its contentious industrial relations reform Bill pass.
The widespread reform, which the government says is key to “get wages moving”, is being met with hesitation by senate crossbenchers, including David Pocock, who is asking Labor to split the Bill.
Senator Pocock and other crossbenchers say they support parts of the Bill that target increasing pay through multi-employer bargaining for low-income workers, and workers in feminised industries, but are concerned by the single income carve outs and want the Bill to be split.
Workplace Relations Minister Tony Burke wants the Bill passed before Christmas because households are hurting right now.
It will sail through the House of Representatives this week, but further concessions are expected to be made when the Bill goes to senate committee.
Mr Burke said he “suspected” more amendments to the Bill would be made to get crossbench support.
“There’s a reason for urgency … The pressure that there is on members of parliament of getting across the detail is nothing compared with the immense pressure that is on households right now,” he told ABC Radio.
“It’s real, what’s happening in the decisions that households are now being forced to make as inflation is going up and up while wages are not moving for so many people. That’s real pressure, and we have to act.”
Mr Burke said once the legislation was passed, single enterprise bargaining could begin within months, while multi-employer bargaining would take longer.
“Those lead times just make the sense of urgency now greater,” he said.
“The sooner we act, the sooner pay will go up.”
Independent MP Allegra Spender said Australia should have both an “effective award system and an effective bargaining system”.
“I believe we should actually reform the award, and we should make it easier … I support the work in the Bill that will make it easier for feminised industries to look at its total award changes.
“I honestly believe that we should split the Bill. I think there are elements of the Bill that are particularly focused on low-paid workers and on feminised industries around gender equality … It is the multisector employer bargaining (I’m concerned by).
“I think we should be very cautious because otherwise you’re going to end up with a lot of unintended consequences.”
Australian Council of Trade Unions secretary Sally McManus said small businesses should not be concerned by the legislation, as the Bill only covered businesses with more than 15 employers or those with their own enterprise bargaining agreements.
The Bill also stipulates that a majority of employees in a small business would have to vote to take part in multi-employer bargaining.
“There is a scare campaign out there by big business because they are the ones that don’t want to give people pay rises,” she said.
“It has been 10 years since workers have seen a real wage increase … People are going backwards.
“We want workers’ wages returned to a point where they are at least keeping up again … It is actually really good for the economy and for small business.”
Government Services Minister Bill Shorten said the policy reforms were needed.
“Many women haven’t had a proper pay rise in a long time. The enterprise bargaining system that is meant to deliver wages hasn’t been working,” he told the Nine Network.
“When inflation is running at 7 per cent and wages running north of 2 per cent, why is it the people who are well paid in the Senate are telling Australian workers they have got to wait even longer for a modest pay rise?”
Leave a Reply