Two business lobby groups, the Business Council of Australia (BCA) and the Australian Industry Group (AIG), last week took different approaches to dealing with their traditional opponents on industrial relations.
The president of the BCA, Tony Shepherd, speaking at its annual dinner, called for more co-operation between employer groups and unions.
But AIG chief executive Innes Willox was less conciliatory when he addressed the Annual Workforce Conference in Melbourne. He said he was not calling for the Fair Work Act to be scrapped but that employers were not being given a fair go.
“It is not surprising that industry feels that, so far, employers have not been given a ‘fair go’ on workplace relations,” he said. “The traffic over the past two years has been all one way ... and it has gone in the wrong direction.”
Both men were agitating to get changes to the Fair Work Act to increase the ability of employers to shrink and grow their workforces – in the name of “flexibility”.
Willox says his members want changes to bargaining laws “which have encouraged unions to pursue restrictions on the use of contractors and labour hire”, transfer of business laws “which have made it extremely difficult to restructure and outsource work”, general protections laws encouraging “speculative termination of employment claims” and laws giving unions too much power.