Fair enough? Watchdog acts for small changes
The review of the Fair Work Act had just two terms of reference. First, is the act operating as intended? And second, are there areas where it could be improved, "consistent with the objects of the legislation"?
Those are modest terms of reference. And it is no surprise that the review has proposed only modest changes to our workplace rules. Yes, it found, by and large, the act is operating as intended, but some minor changes would improve it.
Business, naturally, wanted big changes. WorkChoices was a blueprint that suited its needs, giving it flexibility at the cost of its workers. The Fair Work Act was meant to change that balance, and has. Business wants to change it back.
For other employers, the laws create frustration. WorkChoices allowed them to lean on workers to accept individual agreements dictated by the company. The Fair Work Act instead pushes them towards collective bargaining. It allows unions to raise more issues — including management policies such as hiring contract labour — and gives them more freedom to push them.