Australian Federal Government Jobs and Skills Summit 2022: What to expect next

The Australian Federal Government Jobs and Skills Summit was held on the first two days of September 2022 (Summit) and involved an assortment of panel discussions with experts and advocates, contributions from the floor, and various government announcements.

Participants, drawn from a wide range of business and employee representatives, were invited to bring a diversity of perspectives on industrial relations, skills shortages and future challenges for the Australian labor market arising from digitization, automation and recalibration of operations. associated with decarbonization and the shift to renewable resources.

Broadly, the Summit covered the following topics:

  1. maintaining full employment and increasing productivity;
  2. strengthen job security and wages;
  3. increasing participation and reducing barriers to employment;
  4. providing a high quality workforce through skills, training and migration; and
  5. maximize opportunities in the industries of the future.

Wages were increased in the context of a reduction in the growth of effective wages due to inflation and the general increase in the cost of living. However, as the summit was held at a time when Australia had record high unemployment (as noted in our previous article)the summit focused on skills shortages, rising migration caps and future adaptability.

Below is more information on the topics that made headlines at the Summit.

Company negotiation, BOOT and pressure for multi-employer negotiation

Both the union and business groups agreed that corporate bargaining was not working and that changes to the global test of the best were needed, with the general theme calling for ‘simplification’. That said, there was no consensus on the form of the changes.

There has been strong pressure from labor groups for legislation allowing multi-employer bargaining, which would allow employees in an industry to bargain together to be covered by the same agreement, instead of the applicable modern award. . Tony Burke, federal Minister of Workplace Relations, has since begun consultations on multi-employer bargaining with the goal of introducing legislation later this year. Critics of the proposal fear it will facilitate industry-wide strikes and there is some credence to that concern. However, proponents say it’s the only way to improve bargaining, especially in traditionally low-paying sectors (like childcare).

Spotlight on women

Gender equality was front and center, with stakeholders agreeing that improving women’s participation in the labor market is key to economic prosperity and resilience. Emphasis was placed at the heart of the Summit on the role of women, unleashing women’s untapped talent to fully participate in the workforce, equal pay and the need to provide respectful and safe workplaces for all.

Headline-grabbing comparative data tends to reveal how far Australia is falling behind our OECD neighbours, with keynote speaker Danielle Wood, CEO of the Grattan Institute, noting that Australia has one of the most segregated and divided workforces, and which invests less in parental leave than other OECD countries.

Interestingly, the last time the Australian government held a jobs summit (it was the Hawke government in 1983), only one woman attended. Fast forward to 2022, women made up over 50% of the leaders present, and many powerful female voices led and dominated these important conversations.

So what were the results?

The Australian federal government (along with the states and territories) has committed to 36 immediate outcomes. Some of them (not all) had to:

  1. improve skills and create a better-educated workforce with additional joint federal-state funding of $1 billion for free TAFE in 2023 and another 465,000
    free TAFE places;
  2. Mitigate immediate and critical skills shortages by raising the migration cap from 160,000 to 195,000 places in 2022-2023 and providing $36.1 million in additional funding to expedite visa processing, while extending visas and easing work restrictions on international students;
  3. promote equal opportunity and reduce barriers by providing older retirees with an initial temporary bank loan of $4,000 to allow them to work without losing their payments;
  4. strengthen reporting standards to require employers with more than 500 employees to commit to measurable targets to improve gender equality and those with 100 or more employees to publicly report their gender pay gap to the Agency for gender equality in the workplace;
  5. maximizing jobs and opportunities in our industries and communities by implementing a digital and technology skills pact to deliver “digital apprenticeships” and deliver 1,000 digital placements in the Australian Public Service, over four years; and
  6. modify the Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth) to:
  • ensure that all workers and companies can negotiate agreements in good faith that benefit them and flexible options for reaching agreements;
  • eliminate unnecessary complexity for workers and employers, including making BOOT simple, flexible and fair;
  • give the Fair Work Commission (CC) the ability to proactively help workers and businesses reach agreements that benefit them;
  • provide greater access to flexible working arrangements and unpaid parental leave and stronger protections for workers against adverse action, discrimination and harassment; and
  • extending the powers of the FWC to include “employee-like” forms of work, allowing it to make orders on minimum standards for new forms of work, such as gig work.

What does this mean for you?

While the Australian Federal Government called the summit “extraordinary success» and the beginning of a «new era of cooperation and consensus”, Stakeholders will keep a close eye on the reform agenda as we move towards 2023 and wait for government promises to materialize.

What we know so far is:

If your business has suffered from a dearth of options when recruiting highly skilled candidates, relaxing the skilled migration cap may alleviate some of that pressure in the short term; and

legislative changes on the industrial framework are imminent with multi-sectoral negotiations on the horizon and changes expected from the CC. These changes are likely to impact corporate negotiations, independent contractors and potential gender pay gap reporting requirements, which means it is recommended that these measures be tracked and reviewed further. early.

To learn more about all of the outcomes and additional commitments arising from the Summit, click here.

About Aaron J. Williams

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