Attorney General and Minister for Industrial Relations Christian Porter yesterday released a new discussion paper on ‘cooperative workplaces’ as part of the Morrison Government’s industrial relations reform agenda.

The latest discussion paper seeks to explore ways to improve business productivity, grow wages and reduce conflict through the promotion of harmonious and cooperative workplaces. The paper is more conceptual and less focused on particular aspects of the system than the previous papers on life of project greenfields agreements and penalties for non-compliance.

It highlights the Government’s commitment to improving the IR system by addressing wider economic, productivity and HR considerations relating to cooperation, mutual benefits for employees and employers, and productivity.

The paper calls for the broad views and practical experiences here in Australia and internationally where modern employment practices have contributed to more productive and harmonious workplaces and cultures.  It raises several questions relating to the methods and practices employers have utilised to improve workplace cooperation and engagement.

The Minister said research shows employee engagement levels in Australia are low compared to other countries such as the US and Canada.  Workplaces where engagement levels are low have also been shown to suffer from higher levels of conflict and industrial unrest.”

“This suggests to me that there is a significant opportunity to turn this situation around in Australian workplaces and, in the process, deliver strong benefits for employers, employees and the national economy,” he said.

The discussion paper aims to collect examples of best practice from around Australia and the world, with a final report to be made publicly available to help businesses identify ways to improve their workplace culture and practices.

While the Government is committed to improving the industrial relations system, the Minister flagged that “legislative reforms are not required to achieve these sorts of positive outcomes”. Instead what is needed is fresh thinking and better management cultures that view and treat workers as assets, rather than merely the cost of production.”

Industry to highlight best practice for cooperative workplaces

Australian Resources and Energy Group AMMA welcomes the Australian Government exploring how industrial relations policy can better support workplace cooperation, productivity and positive workplace cultures, according to the employer group’s CEO, Steve Knott.

Mr Knott confirmed AMMA will prepare a strong submission in response to the discussion paper and highlight best practice in the resources and energy industry.

The submission will build on existing research and themes from AMMA’s A New Horizon publication which explores how technology, demographic trends and changing attitudes are fostering greater direct engagement between employers and employees.

“There are many ways in which Australia’s approach to industrial relations policy could better encourage cooperative, productive workplaces. As a starting point, regulatory burden should be eased in high-paying sectors where employees more often than not choose their employer,” Mr Knott said.

“In the resources and energy sector, employees are becoming more highly skilled and less homogeneous in their work. Collective approaches are giving way to greater individual motivation and stronger direct engagement between employees and their employers.

“By contrast, Australia’s industrial relations system has barely evolved since it was first designed in the early 1900’s. It remains preoccupied with “us and them”, “capital vs labour” principles, reflective of a bygone era where 1-in-2 employees were trade union members.”

Despite the Minister seeking to achieve policy outcomes outside of legislative change, AMMA will seek to make specific recommendations for changes to the industrial relations system and practices that will fix inefficiencies and reduce red tape within Australia’s workplace laws.

Building on our significant body of existing evidence, AMMA is presenting to the government the strongest case possible for industrial relations reform which contributes to improving productivity performance through the promotion of harmonious and cooperative workplaces.

To support AMMA’s submission to this particular discussion paper, we are seeking member examples or case studies of best practice and techniques which have contributed to more harmonious and cooperative workplaces.

Please contact AMMA’s Policy team to get involved and assist us to build the evidence base for reform.