The Australian: Unions watchdog to get teeth sharpened

BUDGET 2021: The Coalition’s controversial union regulator will have its funding increased by $8m while the government will spend $10m reducing the award compliance costs of employers.

The Registered Organisations Commission will receive an extra $2m annually over the next four years, in a move that will be attacked by the ALP and unions, which want the agency scrapped.

Industrial Relations Minister Michaelia Cash said the extra funding was designed to ensure registered organisations acted “responsibly, fairly and comply with their obligations under the legislation and that their ­members’ interests are ­protected”.

Senator Cash said the $10m would help employers meet their award obligations.

She said funding would be provided topayroll and business software developers to integrate, in real time, data on award pay and conditions from the Fair Work Commission directly into payroll and business products at a lower cost. “This will make it easier and cheaper for business to comply with awards, pay staff correctly and give them greater confidence to hire new employees,” she said.

Employers have regularly cited complexity of awards as an excuse for underpaying workers’ minimum legal entitlements.

Despite the Fair Work Commission spending years modernising awards, employers maintain the system remains too prescriptive, increasing the chances of workers being underpaid, particularly those working outside standard hours.

However, Labor and unions argue employers are too often citing complexity as an excuse when caught out deliberately underpaying workers.

While the government had promised to criminalise wage theft, it withdrew the proposal when its industrial relations bill was gutted by the Senate.

The federal opposition and ACTU accused the government of payback for not being able to get through changes to enterprise bargaining that would have benefited employers.

The government will provide $5.4m in additional funding for the Asbestos Safety and Eradication Agency to support its work in helping to address Australia’s deadly asbestos legacy.

Senator Cash said Comcare would deliver national forums for commonwealth, state and territory work health and safety inspectors on sexual harassment, and training for employers and managers covered by commonwealth WHS laws to better understand and meet their obligations.

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