Former FWC Deputy President Says Better Management, Not Legislation, Key To Improvement

Published November 12, 2019 -

A key figure in Australia’s industrial relations history and former Fair Work Commission deputy president says that the key to improving Australian workplaces isn’t more legislation.

Johnathan Hamberger, who was heavily involved with the Workplace Relations Act 1996, introduced by the Howard Government, told Workplace Express that he doesn’t think that “you’re going to fix problems by and large through legislation”.

Instead, he thinks management in Australia has to improve.

“Putting it crudely, management in Australia’s not very good. . . especially when it comes to dealing with people,” he said.

“I’m not saying that about all managers. There’s some organisations out there that are very well-run, but there’s an awful lot that aren’t.”

Earlier this year, Hamberger resigned as senior deputy president of the Fair Work Commission after 15 years at the organisation and its predecessors. Hamberger also completed a research these in workplace dispute resolution, which he completed in 2015.

“Having a good approach to dealing with workplace conflicts is pretty important to having a well-run organisation, both from the point of view of being productive and profitable and also from being a good place to work,” he said.

“But there’s not a lot of knowledge about how to do it. There’s a bit, but there’s not much written about it in Australia.”

In terms what he supports, Hamberger said that he is a fan of the FWC’s anti-bullying work and its New Approaches program, an initiative to help “parties find ways to build cooperative working relationships, [addressing] immediate issues and [establishing] processes that work long term.”

He would also like the FWC to take on an expanded role, adding management education as another feather to its hat of roles.

However, he also does concede there does have to be some legislative reform, especially in relation to the ‘complexity’ of enterprise bargaining agreement provisions established by the Fair Work Act.

“I really think it would be great to see some reform there, just to make the system more flexible and more sensible,” he said.

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