TFGA caution on new IR laws

AUSTRALIA is in the middle of a new Industrial Relations system with the proposed ‘Secure Jobs, Better Pay’ Bill being heavily discussed in Federal Parliament this week, something that may well have implications for many in the agriculture sector.

The Bill recommends a number of reforms to Australia’s Industrial Relations system to allow employees an easier pathway to the negotiation of wages and contracts and, in turn, boost wages nationwide.

Through a number of amendments, including changes of the definition of small businesses from one that employs 15 people to 20, and allowing an easier opt-out for business of 50 or fewer employees from multi-employer bargaining, the Bill will soon be enacted by Parliament.

While it is unlikely to have a major effect on the agricultural sector, it may dramatically influence adjacent industries like processing, tourism and hospitality.

TFGA CEO Hugh Christie said the changes were being monitored to ensure farmers were not hamstrung by decisions made out of their control.

“The TFGA will watch carefully how the multi-employer bargaining provisions are interpreted by the courts as this process is rolled out,” Mr Christie said.

“Our concerns, shared by the National Farmers Federation and other stakeholders, are around the potential impact these provisions may have on the rural supply chain and processing sectors that our members rely on due to industrial disputes across multiple employers.

“While the higher profile changes in the Secure Jobs, Better Pay Bill, such as multi-employer bargaining is unlikely to have direct impacts on the majority of our members, particularly given the strengthening of the protection of small businesses negotiated by Senators Lambie, Pocock and others, there are still broader concerns on the potential impacts on businesses pre and post farm gate.

“Should we start to see evidence of unreasonable impacts on the rural sector from this legislation, we will work with industry and stakeholders to ensure that the perspective of businesses across the agricultural sector are heard and advocate for improvements to ensure our members can continue to sustainably provide food, fibre and pharmaceuticals products to the world.”