The Albanese government will next week begin negotiations on a second wave of workplace reforms as it all but rules out bringing back bargaining fees for non-union members.
The workplace relations minister, Tony Burke, who is also the leader of the house, set out the Albanese government’s 2023 agenda at the National Press Club on Wednesday, including the launch of new industrial relations negotiations for a second tranche of reforms.
Burke revealed the autumn session of parliament, from 6 February to 30 March, will progress legislation establishing the housing future fund, putting super in the national employment standards, migrant worker protections, extending paid parental leave, and the safeguard mechanism to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Parliament will also consider legislation for a referendum on the Indigenous voice in the second half of 2023, with a bill that Burke said would set out “every word of the question and every word of the change to the constitution”.
After the passage of an industrial relations bill in the first week of December, Burke used Wednesday’s speech to all but rule out requiring workers to pay fees to unions for negotiating pay deals.
In the first half of the year Labor will legislate to allow employees and unions to recover unpaid superannuation in the Fair Work Commission.
In the second half of 2023 Labor will move to “the more controversial stuff”, a bill that Burke said will “close loopholes” in the workplace relations system.
That will include Labor’s election commitments: to require “same job same pay” in labour hire; define casual employment; regulate the gig economy by setting conditions for “employee-like” work; criminalise wage theft; set “safety principles and minimum standards for long haul drivers”; allow the commission to deal with unfair contract disputes; introduce stronger protections against discrimination; and crack down on dangerous silica dust.
Burke revealed that next Wednesday consultation will begin for that second bill, with the Australian Council of Trade Unions, the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, the Australian Industry Group, the Business Council of Australia, Master Builders, farmers and small business organisations.
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One thing on unions’ wishlist that Burke said would not be in the bill is the reintroduction of bargaining fees, which require non-union employees to pay a fee to cover costs of negotiating collective pay deals.
Unions NSW had pushed the reform before the jobs and skills summit, and calls for the solution to prevent “free-riding” intensified over summer with several other unions going public with their support.
“I have said there’s no government policy about to happen or that’s happening here,” Burke said.
“All my focus … has been about getting better job security and getting wages moving. There has been no discussion within government on this issue at all.”
After the launch of Labor’s $300m national cultural policy on Monday, Burke suggested the plan to introduce Australian content quotas for video streaming could also be applied to music streaming.
Burke said Music Australia would be able to make “strategic decisions” and provide advice to government to help Australian artists win more revenue from streaming services including Spotify and Apple.
He said after playing an Australian album on a streaming service “by the third or fourth song” it will suggest choices from North America.
“The streaming services don’t only have available what you might choose, they also push music to you and getting inside those algorithms and getting a better deal for Australian music will make a huge difference,” he said.
Asked about a minimum rate of pay for arts workers, which the Greens have proposed, Burke replied that he had “not ruled out that we ever get there”.
Burke said it had not been possible after seven months of consultation due to complexities like how to treat volunteers at festivals who are part-paid with tickets and accommodation, and the impact on smaller venues.
“I am deeply frustrated and always have been at the presumption that every artist when they’re asked to help with someone is presumed they’ll do it for free or that exposure is their payment,” he said.
Burke said that musicians, who have often trained since the age of three or four, show “extraordinary” skill.
“To have them on such low rates of pay is horrific,” he said. “Exactly how you fix it, I wasn’t confident that we had landed on the answer yet.”
The Centre for Arts and Entertainment Workplaces, which will lead a crackdown on harassment in the industry, will advise on how to regulate pay, he said.