WA should ditch its IR system

04 October, 2017

There would be no downside to shutting down the WA Industrial Relations Commission and wholly adopting the federal system according to Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry workplace relations director Scott Barklamb.

WA has not referred its legislative power over IR to the Commonwealth system and while the majority of the private sector is covered by the Commonwealth, 11 per cent of employees from mostly small businesses remain covered by the State system.

Speaking at a CCIWA IR breakfast on Tuesday, Barklamb, who lives in Victoria, says he’s seen the impact of scrapping its IR system in the early 1990s – none.

“We have been absolutely none the worse for it,” he says.

“Essentially we have not borne the expense to the taxpayer in maintaining an IR system for some smaller portion of people who weren’t party to federal awards.

“WA still has the 400 odd State awards that I knew of when I worked here 20 years ago.

“I can’t give you a single point in the last 25 years where we would’ve been better retaining our own IR system.”

The State Government is currently conducting a review into the WA IR system.

CCI Chief Executive Deidre Wilmott says in CCI’s incoming brief to the Government it has recommended it reform WA’s industrial relations laws by referring the remaining laws covering the private sector to the Commonwealth, or alternatively, reforming the State system to address the modern needs of small business and organisations.

At the breakfast Barklamb also vented his frustrations over the federal system including its sheer complication and its overhanded unfair dismissal laws that where resulting in employers being too scared to dismiss underperforming or offending staff.

One of his biggest concerns is the drop in agreement making.

“For the first time the number of people covered by enterprise agreements has gone backwards,” he says.

“That’s a canary in a coal mine.

“Businesses have even reverted to the award or they’re not bothered and are using expired agreements.

“That means our system is not correctly supporting or challenging our businesses to think about how they’re doing business and to try and use the fair work system to do it better.”

►Need help navigating WA’s IR system? Contact CCI’s Employee Relations Advice Centre today on (08) 9365 7660 for expert advice.