Such is the need for jobs in the resources sector in Australia that even more lowly jobs are commanding huge salaries, it has emerged.
In some instances laundry hands and barge welders are on salaries of over $300,000 a year, according to the Australian Mines and Metals Association (AMMA) which represents the majority of Australian resource employers.
Its chief executive Steve Knott says that these kinds of anomalies make it essential that the current review into fair work practices is carried out effectively. He is particularly concerned that such high wages are unsustainable.
He has welcomed the details of the Federal Government’s Fair Work Act review which he described as ‘a great opportunity to ensure Australia has effective and productive workplace laws’.
‘With a Coalition that appears to have no policy on industrial relations, we believe this could potentially be the resource sector’s best chance to address the more practical problems under the Fair Work laws,’ Knott said.
‘One of the resource industry’s more immediate concerns is how the Fair Work laws continue to allow the current monopoly unions have in making agreements for new projects. This has resulted in excessive cost blow outs and delays on major projects, with employers experiencing wage increases of 40% cent in the last 12 months.
‘With laundry hands and barge welders receiving annual salaries in excess of $300,000, such high wages are unsustainable and measures must be taken to address these problems and ensure the viability of significant new projects,’ said Knott.
‘The Fair Work review is timely given a large number of resource employers are yet to enter into bargaining under the new IR laws. Furthermore, one third of employers surveyed in a recent AMMA/RMIT University research project confirmed they are experiencing a flow on effect from recent wage outcomes in the oil and gas industry,’ he explained.
‘The review panel should also consider how the demands for wages and conditions being met, due to a union monopoly on agreement making, are beginning to flow on and impact other sectors,’ he added.
A two yearly review into the Fair Work Act was always scheduled to occur as part of the legislation, but Knott said this is an opportunity for all stakeholders to put forward their concerns and seek improvements designed to achieved a more balanced and productive industrial framework.
He pointed out that record industrial dispute figures released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics earlier this month verify what Australian employers have been experiencing for many months that the industrial harmony of Australian workplaces is gradually being eroded.
‘The intention behind the Fair Work law was to keep strikes to a minimum and, with this clearly failing, the circumstances in which strike action can be legally taken must be reviewed and modified to ensure strike action is a last resort in any negotiation,’ he said.
Since the commencement of the Fair Work laws, the AMMA has conducted longitudinal research into the legislation’s impact on the resource industry and Knott said that the results of the research project will be released to Federal Government as part of the review process.