The Morrison government may be able to pass the controversial industrial relations bill before the end of this week after amending the bill to secure the vote of the Centre Alliance’s Stirling Griff. However, to gain Griff’s support of the bill the coalition has had to strip away the majority of its proposed provisions.
In a post written on Twitter, Griff said on Wednesday that the Centre Alliance would only support elements of the bill that enhance protections against wage theft and provide certainty for casuals and their employers.
— Stirling Griff (@Stirling_G) March 17, 2021
“We need to deal with wage theft as a priority to protect workers from unscrupulous employers who seek to rip them off,” The Centre Alliance said in a media statement on Thursday.
“We are also acutely aware that small businesses have a massive potential backpay liability hanging over their heads due to the uncertainty surrounding how casuals are defined, which creates very real anxiety about their viability.”
“This issue needs to be addressed urgently as it is causing significant confusion and stress among businesses who employ casuals, in particular small businesses,” Griff said.
In response to the announcement, the coalition has responded with substantial changes to the bill in the Senate on Thursday.
The government has compromised by dropping all amendments for fast-tracking enterprise bargaining negotiations, greenfield agreements, and giving employers more rights to change employee conditions.
In addition, they have also dropped its proposals for additional protections against wage theft.
The decimated bill is now only left with changes in the definition of casual workers, creating easier pathways for casuals to obtain permanent positions and reducing liability for payback claims of misclassified casuals.
Business Council of Australia president Jennifer Westacott told the Australian Financial Review that those who were opposed to the bill were “condemning our enterprise bargaining system to a slow and painful death.”
The most controversial part of the original bill had been dropped much earlier due to staunch opposition from the Labor Party.
It allowed companies affected by COVID-19 to bypass the Better Off Overall Test (BOOT), which states that an employee must be better off under a new workplace agreement compared to the previous one.