New bills give employers more rights

EMPLOYERS could soon be given more rights to changes work conditions on enterprise agreements, under new bills expected to be introduced to parliament next week.

The new bills, from Employment Minister Senator Eric Abetz, will also allow workers to trade off penalty rates under more flexible working arrangements.

While the government indicated a likely Productivity Commission inquiry into workplace agreements before the election, the laws will be introduced in addition to the commission's inquiry.

Sen Abetz told the ABC the terms of reference for a PC inquiry into enterprise agreements and other working conditions would be announced on Monday.

The new legislation is expected to be considered during a Cabinet meeting next week, where a new drought assistance package is also meant to be on the agenda.

But unions have already hit out at the plans, with Australian Trade Council of Unions president Ged Kearney on Friday labelling them "one of the biggest cons ever" on Australian workers.

The commission inquiry and new legislation also come as the Abbott Government pushes for more flexible working arrangements through a four-year review of award wages by the Fair Work Commission.

While the Abbott Government has not publicly backed wage or penalty cuts, its submission to the FWC review has urged it to consider the "softening economic and labour market" in its decision.

The government's submission also argued the commission should ensure awards do not go "beyond what was envisaged by the legislature", and to carefully work through every award wage on its books.

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