ACA chief calls on Federal Govt to change Fair Work laws

A NATIONAL coal mining lobby group has called on the Federal Government to dismantle its Fair Work legislation claiming it was failing the industry.

Australian Coal Association chief executive Nikki Williams described the industrial relations system as setting sides up against each other and creating a barrier to growth.

Dr Williams said the skills shortage and high demand for coal meant unions had more power to "flex industrial muscles" into matters of management.

This situation was not helped, she said, by Fair Work legislation that did not encourage sides to work together, but pitted them against one another.

"What we've witnessed in the coal industry are skyrocketing wages and production losses running into the hundreds of millions of dollars," she said.

"There are provisions in the act that allows union to notify of stoppages then cancel them at the last minute."

Dr Williams also referred to the "gruelling BMA dispute" as proof that the legislation was flawed.

Workplace Relations Minister Bill Shorten defended the Fair Work Act following the deal signed by BHP Billiton Mitsubish Alliance and a number of unions last week.

"The Fair Work Act contains clear rules governing industrial action to ensure that is used appropriately and is not a step taken lightly," Mr Shorten said.

"The Act also provides a number of mechanisms to resolve bargaining disputes.

"The vast majority of enterprise agreements are made without any industrial action at all.

"Despite quarterly fluctuations in data - industrial disputation continues to trend downwards - from the highs seen during Howard years."