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Reserve bank, mining and retail industry IR calls timely

By: Peter Anderson, Chief Executive ACCI
25 February, 2010

Reserve Bank concerns about inflexible industrial relations regulation and excessive wage claims hindering economic activity add weight to calls over the past week by the mining and retail industries for changes to the 'fair work' system, according to Australia's peak business organisation the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

Last Friday, in giving evidence to the House of Representatives Economics Committee, the Governor of the Reserve Bank Glenn Stevens said that "flexibility is very important ... For us to get the most value as a nation out of the opportunities that the growth of Asia into the future presents, we want to retain that flexibility ... It is hard for me to judge how serious the problems are because I am not in those firms. I can only record that a lot of business people are expressing concern at the moment."

"It is not usual for the Reserve Bank to so frankly and publicly echo concerns of industry. In doing so, the Governor has underscored the importance of policy makers taking heed of calls by significant employing and investing industries to overcome problems that have emerged in the first eight months of the 'fair work' system." ACCI Chief Executive, Peter Anderson, said.

The Australian Mines and Metals Association, on the back of a maritime shipping strike that did not link wage rises to productivity and a strike over lodgings, has called on the Government and the Opposition to develop proposals to constrain excessive union behaviour and to overcome limits on direct dealings between employers and employees within a strong safety net of minimum standards.

This week the ACCI announced that the National Retail Association, supported by the Australian Retailers Association, has taken action in Fair Work Australia to overcome the problem of young people being denied after-school work because of inflexible minimum engagement rules in the new fair work awards.

"A common thread in the concerns of industry and the Reserve Bank is the likelihood that the Government's laws have gone too far in re-regulating the economy with one-size-fits-all rules and union power that does not link wage demands to productivity.

"The early signals that the fair work system sends are important to business confidence, jobs and union behaviour. If the Governor of the Reserve Bank sees sensible flexibility being eroded and growth in Asia hampered then Australian policy makers have a duty to respond."

Source: Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry

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