Fair Work board ‘stacked’ with em­ployer groups


The Mor­ri­son gov­ern­ment has ap­pointed six new deputy pres­i­dents with em­ployer back­grounds to the Fair Work Com­mis­sion, ig­nor­ing a rec­om­men­da­tion by tri­bunal presi- dent Iain Ross and spark­ing La­bor and union claims it has stacked the work­place um­pire ahead of the fed­eral elec­tion.

The Aus­tralian can re­veal that Jobs and In­dus­trial Re­la­tions Min­is­ter Kelly O’Dwyer has ap­pointed six new deputy pres­i­dents — in­clud­ing four who have worked di­rectly for em­ployer groups — who will each be paid $461,850 an­nu­ally.

The de­ci­sion, which has ig­nited ten­sions be­tween the gov­ern­ment and the com­mis­sion, means the ma­jor­ity of tri­bunal mem­bers are now Coali­tion ap­point­ments with back­grounds ei­ther work­ing for em­ployer groups or as lawyers gen­er­ally rep­re­sent­ing em­ploy­ers.

The Aus­tralian un­der­stands Jus­tice Ross told the gov­ern­ment the com­mis­sion re­quired only one ad­di­tional ap­point­ment to re­place com­mis­sioner Anna Cribb, who is re­tir­ing next month. But Ms O’Dwyer has de­cided to pro­ceed with six ap­point­ments that in­clude Amanda Mansini, the di­rec­tor of work­place re­la­tions at the Aus­tralian Mines and Me­tals As­so­ci­a­tion, and Ger­ard Boyce, a

bar­ris­ter who has been the NSW state man­ager of the AMMA and NSW in­dus­trial re­la­tions man­ager for the Na­tional Elec­tri­cal and Con­trac­tors As­so­ci­a­tion.

Ms O’Dwyer also ap­pointed Bryce Cross, who was in­dus­trial ad­vo­cate and cor­po­rate head solic­i­tor at the Cham­ber of Man­u­fac­tures of NSW be­fore his ad­mis­sion to the NSW bar in 1997, and Ja­nine Young, a part­ner at law firm Corrs Cham­ber West­garth since 2011.

Other ap­point­ments are Ni­cholas Lake — who has held se­nior hu­man re­sources po­si­tions with BHP Bil­li­ton, ExxonMo­bil, ANZ and Philip Mor­ris — and Leyla Yil­maz, who un­til this year was the deputy ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the Vic­to­rian Au­to­mo­bile Cham­ber of Com­merce and a mem­ber of the Aus­tralian Cham­ber of Com­merce and In­dus­try’s work­place pol­icy com­mit­tee for 25 years.

Com­mis­sioner Tony Saun­ders, a New­cas­tle bar­ris­ter ap­pointed to the com­mis­sion by the Coali­tion in 2015, has been pro­moted to deputy pres­i­dent, mean­ing there are seven new deputy pres­i­dents.

Ms O’Dwyer last night con­firmed the ap­point­ments, say­ing ad­di­tional com­mis­sion mem­bers “with the right ca­pa­bil­i­ties will be able to re­solve is­sues and fa­cil­i­tate bet­ter work­place out­comes”.

“Since be­com­ing min­is­ter I’ve heard from many par­ties, from unions, em­ploy­ers and em­ploy­ees that the com­mis­sion could work more ef­fec­tively with ad­di­tional re­sources,’’ she told The Aus­tralian.

“These ad­di­tional re­sources will give the Fair Work Com­mis­sion the abil­ity to ap­prove pay in­creases and bet­ter work­ing con­di­tions more quickly for Aus­tralian work­ers.”

The ap­point­ments mean that af­ter next month’s de­par­ture of com­mis­sioner Cribb, the tri­bunal will be made up of 24 Coali­tion ap­point­ments and 20 ALP ap­point­ments.

But while Jus­tice Ross and sev­eral se­nior mem­bers are La­bor-ap­pointed, the pre­vi­ous La­bor gov­ern­ment also ap­pointed a num­ber of em­ployer ad­vo­cates to the tri­bunal.

Op­po­si­tion work­place re­la­tions spokesman Bren­dan O’Con­nor said last night the Coali­tion had made 20 con­sec­u­tive “em­ployer” ap­point­ments since the Ab­bott gov­ern­ment came to power in 2013.

“This is an abuse of power by a des­per­ate gov­ern­ment happy to take in­struc­tions from big busi­ness and trash the in­de­pen­dence of a cen­tury-old in­sti­tu­tion,’’ he said.

“It is ut­terly rep­re­hen­si­ble con­duct that shows only hos­til­ity to work­ers in the labour mar­ket.”

ACTU sec­re­tary Sally McManus last night ac­cused Ms O’Dwyer of a “dis­grace­ful abuse of power” and us­ing the “dy­ing days of her min­istry to stack the sup­pos­edly in­de­pen­dent um­pire with big busi­ness lob­by­ists”.

“She is stack­ing the body that is sup­posed to pro­tect the pay and rights of work­ing peo­ple with rep­re­sen­ta­tives from the big busi­ness lobby against the wishes of the pres­i­dent of that body,’’ she said.

“These six ap­point­ments will re­sult in a Fair Work Com­mis­sion that is al­most two-thirds com­prised of peo­ple who’ve spent their lives at­tack­ing work­ing peo­ple’s rights as big busi­ness lawyers and lob­by­ists.”

AMMA chief ex­ec­u­tive Steve Knott, an out­spo­ken critic of the com­mis­sion un­der Jus­tice Ross, last night wel­comed the ap­point­ments.

The leg­is­la­tion, which passed on Wed­nes­day night with the sup­port of the ALP, seeks to ad­dress busi­ness frus­tra­tion at the com­mis­sion over­turn­ing nonunion en­ter­prise agree­ments be­cause of what em­ploy­ers have called far­ci­cal tech­ni­cal­i­ties.

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