Business concerns over new bullying laws

The ABC reports:

Australians who believe they are being bullied at work will soon be able to apply to the Fair Work Commission to have the harassment stopped.

The law, an Australian first, will come into effect on January 1 as part of amendments to the Fair Work Act passed by the Federal Parliament in June.

Workers will be able to ask the commission for an order which will compel their employer to have the bullying stopped.

However business groups say the commission’s new broad powers could be problematic, with issues which should be dealt with on a personal or human resources level being elevated to the level of an industrial relations tribunal.

But business groups like the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry say the changes are problematic.

“The workplace bullying jurisdiction does give rise to a lot of complications from a business point of view,” the chamber’s chief executive Peter Anderson said.

“Low level bullying acts are very much human resource and personnel issues, and taking these matters into the industrial relations tribunal you give these complaints a completely different characteristic.

“You also end up with the very serious matters being mixed in with the very low level issues and that doesn’t do justice to the serious matters.”

via Business concerns over new bullying laws – ABC News (Australian Broadcasting Corporation).

Fair Work Legislation and Interpretation

Below is my letter published in today’s Australian (including bits deleted by Ed) and two recent articles reporting on the decision by Justice Bromberg of the Federal Court rejecting the attempt by Toyota to seek changes in the enterprise agreement it has with unions. This vividly illustrates the difficulties faced by businesses under the Fair Work legislation and the judicial interpretation accorded to it by Bromberg and others.

But it also illustrates the urgent need to effect major reforms to the Fair Work Act. Those commentators who claim that businesses have failed to stand up for themselves by rejecting union claims should ask the question – what would the situation be if the Fair Work Act was repealed and replaced with a minimal regulatory arrangement that deals primarily with implied or actual breaches of contract. My letter makes one reform suggestion: Read more

The Labor lawyer and the death seal

Below is an article by Paul Sheehan in the Sydney Morning Herald on the decision by Justice Bromberg of the Federal Court rejecting the attempt by Toyota to seek changes in the enterprise agreement it has with unions. It vividly illustrates the difficulties faced by businesses under the Fair Work legislation and some of its judicial interpreters. Minister Abetz has said he is seeking departmental advice, presumably on whether to challenge the decision.

Justice Mordecai Mordy Bromberg of the Federal Court of Australia probably signed the death warrant of the Australian vehicle manufacturing industry last Thursday when he helped ensure that Toyota Australia, with its costly work culture, has no future as a manufacturer here.


While Australians have nostalgia for Holden cars, 90 per cent of buyers are not purchasing Holdens, and most buyers do not care if their Toyotas are sourced overseas or here. When consumers fully understand what is subsidised by taxpayers they will not care if Toyota goes. And Toyota is going.

As the motor industry analyst Joshua Dowling observed after reading Brombergs judgment: The fate of Toyota Australias manufacturing operations has effectively been sealed by a decision in the Federal Court today.


The courts decision to block Toyota from asking its factory workers to vote tomorrow on changes to shift flexibility and overtime bonuses means … the entire Australian car industry is likely to grind to a halt after Fords factory shutdowns in 2016, Holdens closures in 2017 and a likely end to Toyotas operations in 2018, when the current Camry ends its run.

On Thursday, Toyota workers begin their three-week Christmas holiday, the longest shutdown in Toyotas global manufacturing operation. Plus theres their 17.5 per cent holiday pay loading, plus double time-and-a-half when they work on Sundays, plus shift premiums, plus generous long-service leave, plus no medical certificates for sick days, plus time off to give blood usually on Fridays – all of which the chief executive of Toyota Australia, Max Yasuda, has warned is unsustainable.

All of which, by the way, is subsidised by taxpayers, in the misguided, anachronistic idea that Australia can support heavily unionised, government-subsidised heavy industry. It cant. The vehicle manufacturing industry is gone. The shipbuilding industry is next.

Read the rest here: The Labor lawyer and the death seal.

Senator-Elect David Leyonhjelm: Let the people work

Senator-Elect David Leyonhjelm writes in the Australian Financial Review:

Thousands of Australians would love to have paid work. They include those just out of school, just out of jail, age and disability support pensioners, sole parents and refugees.

Thousands of Australian businesses would be willing to take a chance on these job seekers and pay them more than the $5 to $10 an hour they currently receive on welfare.

But they are forbidden from doing so. It is against the law to offer or accept any such arrangement. To take on a new starter and pay them even double their welfare payment is illegal. No matter how poor their resume or how willing they are to work for rates of pay and/or terms and conditions that suit them and their families, they can only be employed if they are paid the minimum wage, notionally about $16.40 an hour but over $20 an hour for some casuals.

Such bans on low paid work create unemployment. Before he entered Parliament and became Labor’s Shadow Assistant Treasurer, Dr Andrew Leigh was a professor specialising in labour economics. He found that reducing the minimum wage in Western Australia by ten percent would increase employment by around three percent within three months.

Over a longer period, the employment gains would expand. And a reduction in the federal minimum wage would have an even greater employment impact, as the WA minimum wage in Leigh’s study covered very few workplaces.

In a separate study Dr Leigh found that most of the people on the minimum wage are in middle income households. By contrast, low income households are typically in that position due to unemployment. Abolishing the minimum wage, by creating employment, would help them the most.

Other studies have shown that most people on low wages move on to higher wages after about a year. This shows that low wage jobs are an opportunity for people to start at a bottom rung and work up. The problem is, Australia’s regulated minimum wage is so high that many cannot even reach the bottom rung and begin to climb.

In fact, Australia’s minimum wage is one of the highest in the world. Australians start paying income tax once their annual income exceeds $18,200, but they are not allowed to get a full time job unless it pays more than $32,000 a year. In the OECD, only Luxembourg and France have a higher minimum wage.

Read the rest at Catallaxy Files.

Quick Reform Needed in Workplace Relations

The decision by General Motors HQ in Detroit to quit car production in Australia in 2017 has led to criticism of its Australian subsidiary, Holden, for entering agreements with unions which established uncompetitive cost structures. And the same might be said about Toyota, whose attempt to change its agreement with unions on the ground that it had created  “outdated and uncompetitive terms and conditions” has been rejected by the Federal Court. So why did it agree to them in the first place?

My view is that the basic reason is that these and other companies have been subjected by the Labor government to greatly increased regulation in workplace relations under the Fair Work legislation and its heavily pro-union administration. If these arrangements are not changed quickly, there will be continuing increases in closures and unemployment. The Abbott government spoke during the election about a “budget emergency”. But while undesirable a delayed response there can occur  without causing closures and unemployment. Failure to deal with the emergency in workplace regulatory arrangements, however, risks a marked slow-down in economic growth and increasing unemployment (including those who drop out of the workforce altogether). Read more

Problems with Existing Regulation of Workplace Relations

Des Moore, former Deputy Secretary of the Federal Secretary, and member of the Society’s Board of Management, has prepared the following position paper for the Society discussing Problems with Existing Regulation of Workplace Relations. It has been emailed to all Federal Members of Parliament and Senators.


The HR Nicholls Society takes the view that there is no substantive imbalance of bargaining power between employers and employees and the relationship does not require detailed regulation. This view is based on the fact that there are over 800,000 employing businesses which operate with a workforce of over 12 million. These businesses compete actively with each other and employers as a group cannot force wages down or impose “unfair” conditions on employees as a group. In these circumstances it is virtually impossible for employers to impose “unfair” conditions on employees on any sustained basis. Read more

The Outrageous Stacking Of Fair Work Australia

Judith Sloan, writing in The Australian, notes the extent to which the previous Labor government distorted Fair Work Australia through stacking it with union officials – with disastrous consequences:

The staffing of the FWC was so distorted by the Labor government in favour of former union officials and Labor-affiliated persons that the public should doubt its impartiality – indeed, the common sense of its decisions.

And the performance of the organisation in dealing with clear regulatory breaches by a registered trade union suggests that some of the staff are more motivated by pleasing their (Labor) political masters than actually complying with the law.


Needless to say, these are serious accusations. But the weight of evidence from the past four-or-so years confirms the picture of an organisation that is stuffed to the gills with appointments based on political affiliation and decisions that are influenced by partisan bias…. Read more