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COSBOA pushes for widespread reform at Jobs & Skills Summit

The Council of Small Business of Australia (COSBOA) submitted a number of recommendations after it secured a seat at the table of the Government’s Jobs and Skills summit.

It comes as COSBOA agreed to an Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) four-point priority proposal for the Jobs and Skills Summit, citing “common interest” in simplifying the industrial relations system for workers and employers outside of big business.

Speaking to Sky News, Treasurer Jim Chalmers welcomed an ACTU proposal for the summit to consider multi-employer bargaining, which could enable workers across sectors to band together to push for better pay and conditions.

As a member of COSBOA, the HRIA submitted its own recommendations on behalf members, who are themselves facing widespread challenges in workplace recruitment and skills shortages.

COSBOA’s Key Recommendations

In their paper “Addressing acute and chronic workforce shortages for small businesses“, COSBOA put forward a number of recommendations on the topics of industrial relations, vocational education and training, migration, and digitisation, with a principal focus on addressing the acute workforce shortages. Including:

  • Introducing a nationally recognised skills passport;
  • Relaxing restrictions on working hours for migrants;
  • Considering extending short-term visas to four years;
  • Developing co-contribution schemes to fund vocational education and training, like the former National Workforce Development Fund or Industry Skills Fund;
  • Incorporating digital skills into training for trades traditionally seen as ‘non-digital; and
  • Simplifying the workplace relations system, including more flexibility for
    part-time staff.

In a media release shortly after the summit had concluded, the Prime Minister’s Office set our 36 priority initiatives including:

  1. An additional $1 billion in joint Federal-State funding for fee-free TAFE in 2023 and accelerated delivery of 465,000 fee-free TAFE places;
  2. A one-off income credit so that Age Pensioners who want to work can earn an additional $4,000 over this financial year without losing any of their pension;
  3. More flexibly utilising $575 million in the National Housing Infrastructure Facility to invest in social and affordable housing, and attract financing from superannuation funds and other sources of private capital;
  4. Modernising Australia’s workplace relations laws, including to make bargaining accessible for all workers and businesses;
  5. Amending the Fair Work Act to strengthen access to flexible working arrangements, make unpaid parental leave more flexible and strengthen protection for workers against discrimination and harassment;
  6. Improving access to jobs and training pathways for women, First Nations people, regional Australians and culturally and linguistically diverse people, including equity targets for training places, 1,000 digital apprenticeships in the Australian Public Service, and other measures to reduce barriers to employment;
  7. An increase in the permanent Migration Program ceiling to 195,000 in 2022-23 to help ease widespread, critical workforce shortages; and
  8. Extending visas and relaxing work restrictions on international students to strengthen the pipeline of skilled labour, and providing additional funding to resolve the visa backlog.

The Government will now embark on a 12-month study, resulting in an employment whitepaper.


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