Mining reforms rejection sparks concern

IMARC

Key mining-related reforms in the federal government’s industrial relations bill, such as life extension of greenfield agreements, have not passed the Senate.

The Fair Work Amendment Bill 2021 proposed reforms to enterprise bargaining and greenfield agreements, with the federal government unable to pass both due to a lack of Senate support.

Reforms to greenfields agreements aimed to extend the expiry date of greenfields agreements from four to eight years for the life of major projects.

The bill intended for longer-term greenfields agreements to feature annual wage increases across the life of the agreement.

The bill also proposed an overhaul to the enterprise bargaining system.

According to the federal government, bargaining has declined over the past decade with fewer employees covered by enterprise agreements.

Enterprise agreement reforms, which also did not pass the Senate, was introduced to increase enterprise agreement cover for Australians, which was anticipated to lift  productivity and wage benefits.

It also aimed to give employees fairer opportunities when considering an enterprise agreement prior to a vote being given.

This would be achieved by making the Fair Work Commission consider the views of bargaining parties during the approval processes, limiting intervention by sources outside of the commission.

The Australian Government believes this will allow the Fair Work Commission to note patterns of work performed by employees.

The only reform that was passed from the industrial relations bill was to legally define casual work to prevent business liability for back-paying.

Minerals Council of Australia chief executive Tania Constable said the rejection of the reforms would reap significant impacts.

“The failure of the Senate to pass key reforms in the Fair Work Amendment (Supporting Australia’s Jobs and Economic Recovery) Bill 2021 will discourage investment, jobs and wage increases, and reinforce Australia’s international reputation for complex and inflexible workplace relations,” she said.

“It is regrettable that the opposition, the Greens and some crossbench senators have stifled important regulatory improvements that the nation needs to accelerate post-COVID economic recovery.”

Constable said the greenfields and enterprise agreements were overdue changes arising from the discussions of employers and unions.

“The original bill’s measures to accelerate the approval of enterprise agreements and allow longer greenfields agreements for major projects were modest, incremental and overdue changes to boost investment, productivity and prosperity,” Constable said.

“These measures were compromise solutions that emerged from extensive discussions between employers and unions in the industrial relations working groups conducted last year by the government.”

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