Albanese Government’s Support of Union Plans Strongly Opposed

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The Labor Government recently proposed the national labour-hire licensing (LHL) scheme. However, the Business Council of Australia (BCA) strongly warns the Albanese government that the LHL may expose sensitive and confidential information.

The BCA’s response is an invitation for consultation with the Department of Employment and Workplace Relations on creating the LHL. The BCA sees that the LHL will allow union officials to oversee the independent Fair Work Ombudsman (FWO). Furthermore, the LHL will allow for the creation of a new oversight board composed of government, employers, and unions.

The business group noted that LHL would allow the FWO to have a dual role. In its formal response, the BCA added, “Any national scheme should not lead to the involvement of unions in overseeing the independent Fair Work Ombudsman and having access to highly confidential and sensitive personal, business and financial information as a requirement for obtaining an LHL.”

The LHL would also compromise the ombudsman’s independence, added to the BCA statement, and further expose the FWO to possible allegations of bias, possibly leading to losing public confidence.

Jennifer Westacott, chief executive for BCA, added that “we need absolute clarity about the problems we’re trying to solve. The path to unnecessary complexity that leaves everyone worse off starts with overreach that goes beyond the identified problems.”

Sally McManus, secretary of the Australian Council of Trade Unions, sees the LHL as an opportunity to help workers get fairer wages and address the challenge where big businesses have found ways to save on workers’ compensations.

Besides the LHL, unions also recommend other ways for the government to support their cause. One of them is changing the retirement security for gig workers. Unions have pressured the government to re-evaluate the existing policy and emphasise providing gig workers with the same benefits as full-time employees.

The government needs help balancing recommendations from unions and economic experts. However, the Albanese government does try its best to support both, especially when the Fair Work Commission (FWC) decided to increase the minimum wage to support workers as they battle inflation.

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