26 September 2023

Productivity call for Fair Work Act change

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The Productivity Commission is calling for changes to the Fair Work Act 2009 and to the operations of the Fair Work Commission (FWC) as a way to boost productivity at Australia’s container ports.

The Commission’s call comes with the release of its draft report Lifting productivity at Australia’s container ports: between water, wharf and warehouse which examined the performance of Australia’s maritime logistics system.

Commissioner at the Productivity Commission, Stephen King said the Draft Report found lifting productivity at container ports could save consumers and business $605 million per year.

“Importers, exporters and trucking companies are having to pay unfair charges because container terminal operators do not compete for trucking companies’ business,” Commissioner King said.

“The Report finds that workplace arrangements in our container ports lower productivity,” he said.

“Earlier intervention by the umpire – the Fair Work Commission – could help resolve protracted disputes about workplace arrangements.”

Productivity Commissioner, Julie Abramson said workplace arrangements at container terminals were holding back productivity.

Commissioner Abramson said highly restrictive clauses in terminal operators’ enterprise agreements limited the ways that workers and equipment could be deployed.

“Changes to the Fair Work Act and operation of the Fair Work Commission are recommended to tackle protracted enterprise bargaining in container ports and the disruptive industrial action that comes with it”, Commissioner Abramson said.

The Commission’s 12 draft recommendations included altering the Act to create a mandatory requirement for FWC intervention when certain thresholds in bargaining activity were reached; making it possible for the FWC to suspend or terminate industrial action that could cause ‘important or consequential’ economic harm; enabling protected industrial action to be suspended or terminated by the FWC when it was causing harm to either party, rather than both; and enabling the FWC to perform an enhanced role in supervising bargaining on the ports.

The Commission’s 435-page Draft Report can be accessed at this PS News link.

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