Printing Industries is making a submission to Bruce Billson, in anticipation of his review into the processes of the Fair Work Commission, in which it argues that businesses feel processes are arbitrary, and a ‘danger zone’ that they avoid.
The difficulty it argues, is that in a commercial sense, it often costs less to make a payment than it does to put the time and resources into a defence when there is no predictability in the outcome. PIAA says this is because of inconsistent decisions from the FWC.
Mary Jo Fisher, director of government relations, Printing Industries says, “The danger zone tempts small business to make decisions based on workplace laws, divorced from operational needs. A business doing this long term risks its future if it lets workplace relations laws dictate its operational decisions. What it should be doing is making the operational decisions it needs with an eye to workplace relations laws.
She says as a series of unfair dismissal payouts can cost other people in the business their jobs.
“There needs to be clear guidelines as to what is a valid reason for termination, and clear guidelines on how to go about it.
“In the discussions I have had with small print businesses over the past five years it almost breaks my heart to hear them have discussions about needing to make operational changes but being deterred from making them because of their understanding of what they can or cannot do under the law.
“You can argue that their understanding is wrong, but perception is everything. The perception of the system from a small business perspective is that it is stacked against business. It should not be us versus them, particularly in small business where it needs to be a close-knit team.
In its submission, Printing Industries highlights the ‘cruelty’ of compulsary redundancy consultations for employees of small print businesses, and says they should be removed.
Fisher highlights an example where a company may have five employees, one of which works a GTO press. If the business no longer can afford to run the press, then that employee is made redundant, and there is no other work for them in the company. Current legislation demands that the employer consults with the employee to see if the employee has any other ideas on how they can contribute to the business. In this situation, she says, there is no other work, and to demand a pointless conversation is cruel.
“The consultation requirements are well-intended, but are not just impractical, but cruel. It is cruel on the worker(s) concerned who are going to be made redundant. In a small workplace, co-workers feel awkward about the worker concerned, and strung out about their own jobs. There is no point, and it is potentially destructive to delay the inevitable” says Fisher.
Fisher also speaks on the ‘no win-no fee’ agents who represent employees being motivated to source the biggest cash payout for the employee, regardless of the employee’s intentions or wishes.
“It is unfortunate because often what an employee wants is to exit with dignity, and an apology or reference would resolve the issue. Once the claim is in the system, it is stacked against this outcome, especially when workers are represented by ‘no win, no fee’ agents, who do not get paid unless cash changes hands.
“So the agents will always advise an employee in a way that maximises cash changing hands, and that is wrong.”
Printing Industries’ also notes agents are not held accountable, as some of the ‘no win no fee’ representatives have been cited negatively in a number of FWC decisions without consequence.
“We are aware of one who has been so-cited in about 17 FWC decisions, yet he continues to represent employees” PIAA notes in its submission.
Fisher says that this is not the case with union representatives.
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