The Victorian Farmers Federation has warned federal Senators sitting on the cross-bench that proposed legislative changes to allow multi-enterprise bargaining arrangements could have unforeseen impacts on the agriculture industry.
In a letter to the Senators, VFF president Emma Germano asked them to split the decide the outcome of the Fair Work Legislation Amendment (Secure Jobs, Better Pay) Bill 2022 and deal with some elements of the bill.
"It is critical that the Senate, as the Parliament's house of review, does not rush into making changes to enterprise bargaining laws which could have far-reaching and unintended consequences for productivity across all Australian industry," Ms Germano's letter said.
"In a state where so much of our food and fibre is exported from major ports, Victorian agriculture is particularly exposed to the fall-out and secondary impacts caused by industrial strife."
She said that "disagreements between unions and stevedores have had significant effects on our supply chains" and will impact the cost of running agricultural businesses.
"This has been evidenced through the Productivity Commission's findings that stevedores, shippers and the unions all have significant and unbalanced bargaining power and have no issue shifting costs to the end users such as farmers, and that reform is required," Ms Germano said.
The National Farmers Federation (NFF) have also called on the legislation to not be rushed, telling a Senate Committee earlier this month that it would add further fuel to food price inflation.
WA farmer and chair of the NFF's workforce committee, Tony York, said delaying the workplace relations reforms would allow for proper design and consultation when he appeared before the Senate's Education and Employment Legislation Committee.
"These changes are simply too significant to be rushed into law," Mr York said.
"We hold very real concerns about the impact of these changes on small business and economic productivity.
"We couldn't possibly support the bill without proper consideration."
The NFF has identified the move to multi-employer bargaining would "increase complexity" and "delay agreements".
"It's possible that smaller businesses will be steamrolled into arrangements which aren't suitable for them, and place them at a disadvantage to larger competitors," Mr York said.
"As a sector dominated by family businesses, we can't go down a path that puts smaller businesses on the back foot, and stifles innovation and productivity."
Both Jacqui Lambie and David Pocock have indicated they will support splitting the bill and dealing with the controversial elements in 2023.
"This is not about delaying," Senator Pocock wrote on Twitter.
"By splitting the bill we can pass the parts of it that are straightforward and supported across the board and take the proper time to understand and refine parts that aren't."
The Albanese government needs the vote of at least one crossbencher along with Greens for the legislation to pass the Senate without splitting it.