Business, Earthmoving News

Mixed reactions as IR Bill reaches parliament

With the proposed changes to industrial relations now being discussed by parliament, questions still remain around who will be impacted

Changes to the Industrial Relations Bill (IR Bill) have been introduced to parliament, which if put into practice would mean labour hire workers employed by companies with more than 15 staff would be paid the same rate as those engaged under enterprise agreements.

The federal government says the IR Bill’s changes will improve the pay and conditions of gig economy workers and casual employees, with Workplace Relations Minister Tony Burke saying that: “These changes will affect a small number of workers. But for the workers this affects, closing this loophole will be life-changing.”

For the Bill

Leading up to this introduction to parliament, there was concern that small contractors and the self-employed subbies of the industry would be negatively impacted by these changes. The Housing Industry Association (HIA) has reacted positively to the IR Bill changes as they currently stand, saying that tradies in residential building will not be impacted.

“We are pleased the government has listened to HIA’s concerns that reforms to industrial relations laws cannot and should not impact the status quo in the residential building industry. Protecting the rights of independent contractors is critical,” HIA managing director Jocelyn Martin says.

“Under the proposed laws a worker must be operating via a digital platform and be ‘employee-like’ to become subject to the Fair Work Commission’s proposed new powers to set minimum standards. Claims that the Commission will be able to force independent contractors to become employees don’t appear to hold much weight.

“In a further win… apprentice and training arrangements have been expressly excluded from measures targeted at labour hire providers.”

The HIA however still has concerns about what impacts the Fair Work Commission’s jurisdiction “when handing unfair contract terms and measures targeted at the road transport industry supply chain will affect independent contractors and the residential building industry”.

Against the Bill

Master Builders Australia on the other hand says that tradies could still be impacted by the Bill, releasing a forceful rebuttal of the proposed changes.

“The Bill is not about ‘closing loopholes’ but ties a rope around the hands of tradies and creates loopholes for the union movement to increase their stranglehold of the building and construction industry,” Master Builders Australia CEO Denita Wawn says.

“Over the past few weeks, we have seen comments from Minister Burke that this legislation is simply about ‘closing loopholes’ and the impact will be minimal. However, we now know that is simply not the case.

“There is nothing simple about adding hundreds of pages to the Fair Work Act and expecting businesses of all sizes and independent contractors to try and navigate it.

“We heard reassurances that tradies would not be affected, yet there is a range of elements in the Bill that will jeopardise the rights of independent contractors and self-employed tradies to be their own boss.”

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