Fair Work Act reform to boost greenfields development

The Australian Government has proposed an industrial relations amendment to the Fair Work Act that will encourage businesses to create new jobs for a post-COVID-19 economic recovery.

The bill contains changes to Australia’s employment laws, including allowing major resources and energy greenfields projects worth $500 million or more to run up to eight years, in line with longer construction timeframes.

Currently, Australian greenfields agreements are capped at four years.

Minerals Council of Australia (MCA) chief executive Tania Constable added that Australia’s mining competitors the United States and Canada had access to enterprise agreements covering the life of a project, unlike Australia’s four-year limit.

The MCA has identified 31 minerals projects at or above the $500 million threshold worth a combined $31 billion in investment, supporting 17,000 construction jobs and 11,000 ongoing jobs.

“Extending the option of longer greenfields agreements to nationally significant projects will help unlock additional investment and jobs,” Constable said.

“This reform is good for projects that involve underground mining, minerals processing or more complex project plans, which may take more than four years to proceed from construction to execution to completion.

“The bill is an important step towards a more modern and dynamic workplace relations system.”

Australian Resources and Energy Group chief executive Steve Knott said the industrial relations bill reform would address longstanding concerns and priorities for Australian mining, oil and gas employers.

“Allowing greenfields agreements for major projects to run to match their typically longer construction timeframes is a common-sense reform that will help Australia secure the enormous national opportunities within its major project investment pipeline,” he said.

The bill also provides further certainty around casual employment, an area which is of huge value to the resources and energy sector, according to Knott.

“It is pleasing the government has acted on the advice of senior executives from Australian Mines and Metals Association (AMMA) member companies, who stepped forward to highlight the significance this relatively simple change will have on influencing final investment decisions for multi-billion-dollar, nation-building projects,” he said.

“Collectively, these measures will reduce employment-related red tape and risk for resources and energy employers.”

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