The Australian Institute of Employment Rights (AIER), Australia’s only independent tripartite industrial relations think tank, says that the key to raising Australia’s productivity lies in changing workplace culture not reducing work place rights.

In its submission to the Federal Government’s review of the Fair Work Act, AIER debunks the myth that deregulation and “flexibility” is the source of productivity gain.

 “There is no research that verifies the link between lower labour standards (via deregulation) and productivity gain” says AIER Executive Director, Lisa Heap.

 “On the contrary this orthodox neo liberal view of productivity and the labour market has been well and truly superseded by research, including from organisations like the OECD and IMF that now accept that strong core labour rights including respect for freedom of association, collective bargaining and less disparity in access to minimum standards, is key to social cohesion and sustainable economic development”,  Ms Heap said.

AIER calls on the Federal Government to establish a National Centre of Workplace Citizenship that will help employers and workers to make the move to implement genuine fairness within the workplace.

There is mounting evidence regarding the cost of poor workplace culture on individual’s health and well-being and the bottom line for business.  This includes the costs of physical and mental ill health, workers compensation bills and the costs of litigation for harassment and bullying claims.

Instead of focussing on arguments for deregulating the labour market Ms Heap says that “employer advocates should be joining with AIER to call for initiatives like the Centre for Workplace Citizenship that will bring employers and workers together to resolve some of the big questions like how the quality of Australia’s people management can be improved, what’s required in terms of investment in skills and training and how industry restructuring can occur without social dislocation.

The Australian Charter of Employment Rights has been developed by the AIER to guide organisations and Government on the principles that should underpin the relationships between employers and workers in Australian workplaces. To assist organisations to implement the Charter principles in practice the AIER has developed a tool, the Australian Standard of Employment Rights, which provides a step by step guide to how organisations can be fair and productive.

 “These are the kinds of initiatives that should be winning government support for funding and employer attention if they are really interested in productivity gains”, Ms Heap said.

In its submission AIER has also challenged the industrial parties, government, employer and union to re-enter genuinely into tripartite relations and end the era of using industrial relations as a political football. 

To download a copy of the AIER submission click here.