The New York Daily Paper
Today's News Headlines, Breaking News & Latest News from US and World, News from Politics, Sports, Business, Arts and Entertainment.

Anthony Albanese’s labor laws could hit small businesses with huge fees

0

Small businesses may have to shell out tens of thousands of dollars in consultant fees under Anthony Albanese’s new labor laws.

A controversial part of the bill being debated in the Federal Parliament allows companies to be dragged into a multi-employer agreement if their workforce votes in favor.

The costs of participating in this bargaining process could be as high as $175 per hour, an Employment and Labor Relations Department report estimated.

This could add up to $14,638 for small businesses, $75,148 for medium-sized businesses, and $94,311 for large businesses, based on 4.6 hours per day over 31 days for small businesses and 170 days for medium-sized businesses.

Small businesses could have to shell out tens of thousands of dollars in consultant fees under Anthony Albanese's new labor laws.

Small businesses could have to shell out tens of thousands of dollars in consultant fees under Anthony Albanese’s new labor laws.

The chief executive of the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Andrew McKellar, stated that the consultants’ fees would be more than $400 per hour.

The revelations from today’s Senate committee final hearing confirm what we’ve known all along. This bill has been rushed and half-finished at best,” he said.

The opposition seized on the figures after they were revealed in Senate committee hearings on Tuesday, asking three pointed questions during question time.

Liberal Senator Michaelia Cash called it “a bargaining tax on small businesses” that they would have to pay “for the privilege of potentially being forced to negotiate a deal.”

However, there are numerous ways businesses can avoid paying the fees, either by avoiding multi-employer bargaining altogether or by making someone else pay.

First, all businesses with up to 15 employees are exempt from being forced to deal with multiple employers, which can increase to 20 as the bill is negotiated.

Companies that already use company agreements also cannot be forced to participate in negotiations with multiple employers.

A contentious part of the bill being debated in parliament allows companies to be drawn into a multi-employer deal if their workforce votes in favour.

A contentious part of the bill being debated in parliament allows companies to be drawn into a multi-employer deal if their workforce votes in favour.

A contentious part of the bill being debated in parliament allows companies to be drawn into a multi-employer deal if their workforce votes in favour.

Small Business Minister Julie Collins said the vast majority of small businesses would use cooperative bargaining instead.

That bargaining stream is free, does not involve strikes, and was optional for those with 15 or fewer workers.

“Our expectation is that most small businesses are in the co-op stream where they can use out-of-the-box deals,” he said.

Comments on the subject also ignored that many companies already have to pay consultants to negotiate business deals, and organizations like the Chamber of Commerce often foot the bill.

“Many companies already incur costs and many companies are already covered by their employer’s organization maximum,” said Ms. Collins.

The minister repeatedly told parliament that 90 per cent of all Australian businesses would be exempt and incur no costs.

If all else fails, the federal budget allocated $7.9 million to help small businesses negotiate, which they could apply to reimburse costs.

Small Business Minister Julie Collins (right) and Employment and Industrial Relations Minister Tony Burke (left) spearhead the bill.

Small Business Minister Julie Collins (right) and Employment and Industrial Relations Minister Tony Burke (left) spearhead the bill.

Small Business Minister Julie Collins (right) and Employment and Industrial Relations Minister Tony Burke (left) spearhead the bill.

Whether the bill will pass this year will be decided until the last moment while the government negotiates with top cross-cutting senators over the details.

Independent Sen. David Pocock said he supported 85 to 90 percent of the bill, but wanted time to consider the impacts of its more complex aspects, such as multi-employer bargaining.

He said the rushed investigation diminished the value of the final report and the public did not have enough time to present their submissions.

“It affects too many Australians, too many workers, too many small businesses,” he told reporters on Tuesday.

“My priority has been to work on the details, to consult, to make sure we have the details right.”

Both Senator Pocock and Independent Senator Jacqui Lambie have proposed splitting the bill to prolong consultations.

Is it $175 or $400 an hour?

The Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry claimed that the figure of $175 per hour that the Department of Employment and Industrial Relations estimated is too low.

Instead, he argued that consulting costs, at market rate, would be around $438 per hour, based on Doyle’s Guide price reports, adjusted for inflation.

ACCI chief executive Andrew McKellar said this meant that, based on government estimates of how long bargaining would take, employers could expect to pay between:

· $19,574 to $23,684 for a small business.

· $107,344 to $129,880 for a medium-sized company.

· $126,307 to $152,820 for a large company.

“Alarmingly, the bill’s own Regulatory Impact Statement also shows that even small business owners will have to spend at least 4.6 hours every day for up to six months, away from their businesses, negotiating a multi-employer agreement,” the business lobby group said. .

McKellar said the last thing businesses needed were tens of thousands of dollars in additional costs as they battle rising inflation and energy bills along with worker shortages.

“Even under its own methodology, the government has vastly underestimated the direct costs to companies of being drawn into multi-company negotiations, let alone the costs of being forced to work under inadequate arrangements determined in union offices,” he said.

‘There is no question that employers want higher wages for all Australians. When wage growth is strong, businesses and families benefit.

“However, the government’s proposal to implement sweeping changes to multi-employer bargaining will do nothing to help deliver larger wage packages.”

But Industrial Relations and Employment Minister Tony Burke says he does not want to wait for wages to move, arguing the changes will put upward pressure on earnings.

The Fair Work Commission and departmental officials were questioned by crusading parliamentarians on Tuesday.

Senator Pocock cited research from the Parliamentary Library which suggested that claims that multi-employer bargaining could close the gender pay gap in Australia were not accurate.

“They’re saying, ‘proceed with caution, despite what you’ve been told, this is not necessarily what it appears to be,'” he said.

But the department’s deputy secretary, Jennifer Wettinger, said the bill was designed to achieve gender equity.

“What international research shows is that multi-employer bargaining in particular has a positive impact on gender equality,” she said.

Ms Wettinger said low-wage, female-dominated industries would benefit the most.

Senator Lambie remains concerned that commercial competitors may be forced to deal together, and said the focus should shift to improving Australia’s premium system.

“I just wonder if we could do a better job on that system,” he said.

“If they don’t think they’re getting paid enough, that brings me back to the rewards system.”

Whether the bill will pass this year will be determined until the end while the government negotiates with top crusader senators like David Pocock (pictured) over the details.

Whether the bill will pass this year will be determined until the end while the government negotiates with top crusader senators like David Pocock (pictured) over the details.

Whether the bill will pass this year will be determined until the end while the government negotiates with top crusader senators like David Pocock (pictured) over the details.

The opposition requests more consultations, rejecting the multi-employer negotiation.

Government Services Minister Bill Shorten said proposed changes to controversial labor laws would be carefully considered.

A parliamentary report on the laws called for increasing the definition of a small business from 15 to 20 workers, while urging more clarity on worker protections.

Although cross-sectional senators have yet to indicate their final position on the bill, Shorten said the changes would make sense.

“I am sure that the government will listen very carefully to the recommendations of the report,” he told ABC Radio on Wednesday.

“I don’t think the salary system will ultimately sink or swim, whether it’s 15 or 20 (workers), but that will depend on others negotiating.”

Deputy Liberal leader Sussan Ley criticized the changes, saying small businesses would be even worse off under the reforms.

“(The report) made that modest change, going up from 15 to 20, but that’s not going to make a difference,” he told Sky News.

“We know the effect this will have on small businesses is incredibly bad.”

The government had said it wanted to pass the bill before the end of the year to speed up stagnant wages.

Government Services Minister Bill Shorten said proposed changes to controversial labor laws would be carefully considered.

Government Services Minister Bill Shorten said proposed changes to controversial labor laws would be carefully considered.

Government Services Minister Bill Shorten said proposed changes to controversial labor laws would be carefully considered.

However, the debate over the bill comes as Reserve Bank Governor Philip Lowe warned during a speech on Tuesday that raising wages to match rapidly rising inflation could have a negative impact.

“If we all accept the idea that wages have to go up to compensate people for inflation, it will be painful, so it’s best to avoid it,” he said.

Shorten said it was still a problem that wages were not moving.

“If wages move too fast, that’s not desirable, but if wages don’t move at all it’s a disaster,” he said.

“Where you have inflation going up 7-1/2 percent and wages not moving at all, that’s a 7-1/2 percent pay cut.”

Crossbench MP Helen Haines said a number of questions and uncertainties still remained about the bill.

“For me, it’s important to understand what the evidence is to determine this (small business) threshold and I know this will be discussed in the Senate,” he told ABC Radio.

I hope the bill comes home. I will consider it again, based on the debate and the evidence before me at the time.’