AS the Australian Government moves to increase maximum penalties for illegal secondary boycotts, AMMA maintains it is just as important to outlaw the practice of unions using enterprise bargaining to restrict commercial contracting and labour hire arrangements.

AMMA’s advice was provided through its submission on the exposure draft of the Competition and Consumer Amendment (Competition Policy Review) Bill 2016, which is the government’s response to the Harper Competition Policy Review of 2014-15.

In its response to the review, the government supported 44 of the 56 Harper recommendations in whole or in part, and noted it was open to the remaining 12 depending on further consultation.

A significant change now being proposed by the Coalition is increasing the maximum penalties for secondary boycott behaviour from the current $750,000 to $10 million or more – thus aligning secondary boycotts to other breaches of the Competition and Consumer Act 2010 (CCA).

AMMA’s submission strongly supports the government increasing maximum penalties for secondary boycotts to align to other breaches of competition law, but says not addressing the issue of “contractor clauses” in enterprise agreements was notably absent in the legislation, despite being recommended by Harper.

“Resource employers welcome the government acting to subject secondary boycotts to the same maximum penalties as cartel behaviour, price fixing, and other anti-competitive activities,” says AMMA’s head of policy, Scott Barklamb.

“In a secondary boycott, everybody loses. Unions are big businesses with deep pockets, and our laws must be able to comprehensively stamp out secondary boycotts.

“Having said that, when the government acts on secondary boycotts, it must also act on anti-contractor and anti-labour hire clauses, or it risks leaving the job half done.

“Unions shouldn’t be telling businesses who they can trade with, and they shouldn’t be able to abuse the enterprise bargaining system to lock employees and job seekers out of work.”

Government should act on Harper and PC recommendations

Both the Harper Review on competition policy and the Productivity Commission review on workplace relations separately recommended outlawing the practice of unions using enterprise bargaining to restrict commercial contracting and labour hire, yet this has not been actioned by government.

AMMA urges the government to adopt Harper review recommendation 37 which would extend the application of prohibitions under s45E and s45EA of the Competition and Consumer Act 2010 (CCA) to industrial agreements and awards.

At the same time, the government should draft legislation in line with the Productivity Commission’s review of Australia’s WR system to amend the Fair Work Act to prohibit clauses that seek to restrict the use of contractors and labour hire arrangements.

The two fixes are not mutually exclusive and will leave industrial parties in do doubt about their rights and obligations.

Click here to read AMMA’s submission on the exposure draft of the Competition and Consumer Amendment (Competition Policy Review) Bill 2016.

AMMA members with queries or comments on these issues should contact AMMA’s principal adviser workplace policy via [email protected].