The Secure Jobs, Pay Better bill has passed the House of Representatives but is still facing a lot of hurdles in getting passed through the Senate.
The bill, which is one of the Albanese government’s highest priorities before the year ends, is vital in providing a pay raise for millions of Australian workers.
A report on the bill was released on Tuesday night and it clarifies which way two key Senate crossbenchers, Jacqui Lambie and David Pocock, are leaning.
Labor is still looking for the last vote on the bill, which Pocock says he agrees with “80 to 90 per cent” but cannot vote for in its current form.
In a Senate report released Tuesday night, Pocock raised concerns with binding arbitration of flexible working requests.
Pocock and the government secured a deal regarding the territory rights bill, but Pocock said he didn’t want to get “caught up” in the industrial relations debate.
Meanwhile, Workplace Relations Minister Tony Burke had pleaded with Pocock to work with Labor and the Greens to pass the industrial relations bill this year.
Burke argued that the single-interest stream is necessary to help middle income earners gain pay rises.
Key parts of the Secure Jobs, Pay Better bill
Multi-employer bargaining. This is similar to collective bargaining. It occurs when workers in the same industry who are employed by different companies decide to bargain as a group. Instead of reaching individual agreements by company, they reach an agreement that covers everyone and every workplace. This umbrella agreement will be approved by the Fair Work Commission. Currently, over 15 per cent of workers are covered by these kinds of agreements, but the Albanese government wants to see that increase because it’s one of the keys to seeing wages moving. Unions are supportive of the changes but do not think it goes far enough.
Pay secrecy. This means that companies would not be able to put “pay secrecy clauses” into employment contracts. Currently, companies can ban workers from comparing their salaries with their colleagues. If the bill passes into law, employees will become free to discuss their pay with whoever they want to.
Greater flexibility. The bill gives employees more rights to negotiate with their employers about flexible working hours that suit their needs. Companies won’t be able to refuse a request from an employee who is trying to have a work-life balance. The law will cover parents with children who are of school age, carers and over-55s. If their company refuses their request, they can take the case to the Fair Work Commission.
Fewer fixed-term contracts. The government wants to put more people into permanent work and off fixed-term contracts. If the bill passes into law, it will mean that fixed contracts would be capped at no more than two years or two consecutive contracts.
Ending sexual harassment. Lastly, the bill will follow recommendations from the Respect@Work report by putting sexual harassment “expressly prohibited” under Commonwealth Law. The 2020 report focused on the prevalence of sexual harassment in the workplace and the capability of systems to prevent it from happening.