Independent Food Distributors Australia (IFDA) update: October 2023

Proposed Industrial Relations Legislation

Small and medium-sized businesses are experiencing rising wage pressures and higher input costs. In short, this means slimmer profit margins at a time when the future is increasingly uncertain so any issue that may impact that viability must be highlighted. One of those issues continues to be protecting members from specific industrial relations changes, like ‘casual conversion’. This is a move by government to pressure employers into converting casual workers to part time or full time. IFDA is part of the Small Business Committee within the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (ACCI) and has been providing strategic input to their executive team, over many months, on how these changes will detrimentally affect our members. ACCI is one of the three big peak business bodies the governments deals with along with BCA and AIG. Thanks to our strategy of engaging with key cross benchers, the Senate delivered a significant win for transparency  proper parliamentary scrutiny when it voted to hold an extended inquiry into the government’s workplace relations laws. This halts a government plan to push its workplace relations changes through by the end of the year. Instead of completing a report by the end of October, the Senate will now have until 1 February next year to review the bill. This extra time gives IFDA and ACCI and other business groups a better opportunity to push back on the government’s IR legislation. IFDA is attending a special IR Roundtable organised by Senator David Pocock on November 2.

Workforce shortages

IFDA Chairs the national food supply chain alliance. One of our pillars has been highlighting the shortage of labour across the supply chain. (including suppliers and distributors) Together, in June 2022 before the Jobs and Skills Summit, we calculated we needed 170,000 workers. This received widespread media attention and recently, after much lobbying we achieved a significant result. The Minister for Skills and Training, Brendan O’Connor has announced a food supply chain workforce capacity study will be undertaken by Jobs and Skills Australia to identify the best opportunities to grow a targeted workforce in the agriculture sector and along the food supply chain. The study will be undertaken between January and June 2024. IFDA CEO, Richard Forbes, has briefed one of O’Connor’s senior advisers on the need for suppliers and distributors to be included and this was agreed to.

Food Industry Leaders Forum

IFDA co-ordinated the Food Industry Leaders Forum last Thursday. The primary objective was to reach agreement toward establishing a national food security plan which would reduce the impact of disruptions on food businesses, both suppliers and distributors, and ensure the consistent access of food to consumers. The Forum included 14 CEO’s, GM’s and Heads of Policy from Industry groups and senior government officials. Significant progress was made and we agreed a follow up meeting was needed in late November. Richard introduced the Forum with a ten minute speech that highlighted the role of IFDA’s members and the importance of independent wholesalers and family owned businesses.

Unfair Trading Practices Prohibition

Richard has a regular bi-monthly ACCC /Alliance catch up with Deputy Commissioner, Mick Keogh.

The announcement of the Competition review by the Treasurer’s office can be read here. The Review has no clear agenda but they know the first issue will be merger reforms and that the review will probably run for two years. A slow burn rather than a big bang were their words. Much of the review will be internal to Treasury and government. On the issue of unfair trade practices prohibition (UTPP), which we have been working on for some time now, because it has the potential to provide more of a level playing field for our/your members, and protect them from harmful conduct. The government is currently in the consultation phase and submissions close on November 29.

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