RESOURCES and Energy Group AMMA last week wrote to Minister for Small and Family Business, the Workplace and Deregulation, Craig Laundy, recommending he consider a number of important reforms to the Fair Work Commission.

The letter detailed three primary areas for the Minister’s review.

  • Limiting appointment terms of tribunal members to 10 years.
  • Extending the statutory retirement age of tribunal members to 70 (from the current 65).
  • Appointment at least seven more tribunal members to address resourcing challenges at the Commission.

The first two areas of change – limiting appointment terms to 10 years and raising the retirement age to 70 – were recommended by the Productivity Commission following its extensive 2015 review of Australia’s workplace relations system.

In the letter, AMMA noted many tribunal members will have terms well exceeding 15 years, with some up to 25 years.

“In AMMA’s view, a key concern with appointment terms of such length is that there is a real risk of members becoming disconnected with the modern business world,” the letter stated.

AMMA also noted how several participants in the Productivity Commission’s 2015 Inquiry into the Workplace Relations Framework submitted that the very long possible appointment periods for FWC members entrenched problems, and were not consistent with current practice in other key public institutions.

An important simultaneous reform, AMMA told the Minister, is lifting the retirement age to 70 to ensure quality appointees are not lost too soon to the Commission due only to their age.

“A talented industrial relations practitioners may be appointed to the FWC aged in their late 50’s or early 60’s, perhaps after decades of valuable private sector real-life business experience,” the letter outlined.

AMMA also asked for the Minister to consider resourcing challenges at the FWC – currently comprising 39 tribunal members – 19 of which are at the Presidential level and 20 at the Commissioner level.

This is seven members fewer than the 46 tribunal members when the ALP left office on 7 September 2013.

“AMMA believes the government would be more than justified in appointing up to seven new tribunal members,” the letter suggested.

“This would bring the FWC’s current resources in-line with the size of the tribunal in 2013 when the ALP left office.”

Read AMMA’s letter here.