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Aust new industrial relations laws come into force

July 1, 2009 - 10:17AM

Australia's new industrial relations laws have officially come into force, with Fair Work Australia replacing the Howard government's Work Choices regime.

Addressing the opening session of the Australian Industrial Relations Commission on Wednesday, Deputy Prime Minister Julia Gillard said the new laws would prevent the strong treating the weak unfairly.

"This is what the Australian people voted for in the 2007 election," Ms Gillard told reporters after the ceremonial session.

"In 2007 the Australian people decisively said they rejected the extreme Work Choices laws of the Liberal Party and that they wanted to see fairness and decency in Australian workplaces."

Ms Gillard said she believed young people in particular would benefit from the new laws.

"The evidence under Work Choices was overwhelming that the people who faced the greatest rip-offs, the people who got hurt the most by the Liberal Party and Work Choices, were young workers," she said.

"People in that very first job who had an Australian workplace agreement thrust into their hands which stripped away basic pay and conditions.

"I think it is disgraceful that that was their first experience in the workplace.

"Of course, through our Fair Work Act, we have fixed that.

"Young workers, every Australian worker is going to have a safety net they can rely on."

Employers would also benefit from the new laws, Ms Gillard said.

"Employers can look to this system as one that is simpler, has less red tape, enables them to bargain at the enterprise level in good faith, and gives them a safety net which is simple to understand, rather than thousands of complex pages which employers have had to struggle with in the past," she said.

Liquor, Hospitality and Miscellaneous Workers' Union national secretary Louise Tarrant said she was confident the new laws would benefit workers in the hospitality industry.

"I think when workers are able to sit down and engage with their employers, and the employers are forced to listen and to deal fairly and in good faith with their workforce, better outcomes will come," Ms Tarrant told reporters.

"We'll get better agreements. We'll also get better dialogue and better processes resolving difficulties. That means better workplaces for everybody."

AAP

 

 

 

The passing of the Rudd Government’s Fair Work Bill shows what can be achieved when people who oppose the disgraceful Work Choices laws and are committed to fairness and balance in Australian workplaces, work together.

The Government acknowledges the positive contributions of Senators Xenophon and Fielding in this process.

The Government also acknowledges the constructive approach of the Australian Greens throughout this debate and their clear concerns about the injustices which can occur for working Australians in the absence of fair and balanced unfair dismissal laws.

What has been starkly revealed in this debate is the complete political humiliation of the Liberal Party which stood in the way of the Australian people.

The Leader of the Opposition has been revealed to the Australian people as an opportunist who just two weeks ago on March 5 he said:

Work Choices is dead. We accepted the verdict of the people at the last election.
(ABC Adelaide radio)

Today Mr Turnbull and the Liberal Party voted in the House and the Senate to do the complete reverse by supporting the continuation of Work Choices.

The Liberals failed to move one constructive amendment and are now consigned to the political fringes; where their extreme workplace laws have always been.

Labor promised to get rid of Work Choices and create a new fair and balanced workplace relations system. The Fair Work Bill delivers on that promise.
 

The Government has agreed that:

  • Until 1 January 2011, the threshold used to define a small business for the purpose of applying the unfair dismissal arrangements will be less than 15 Full Time Equivalent employees.
  • The number of full time equivalent employees is to be calculated on a straightforward basis by averaging the ordinary hours worked by all employees in the business over the 4 week period immediately prior to the employee’s termination, and dividing that by 38, being ordinary weekly hours.
  • From 1 January 2011, the threshold used to define a small business for the purpose of applying the unfair dismissal arrangements will be based on a simple headcount of employees as provided currently in the Fair Work Bill and detailed in Forward with Fairness, Labor’s election policy.
  • The amendment to the small business definition will be progressed through the Fair Work (Transitional Provisions and Consequential Amendments) Bill 2009 when it is debated before the Parliament.
  • The objects of the Fair Work Bill will acknowledge the special circumstance of small and medium size enterprises. This amendment will also be progressed through the Fair Work (Transitional Provisions and Consequential Amendments) Bill 2009 when it is debated before the Parliament.
  • A specialist information and assistance unit for small and medium size enterprises will be established within the Office of the Fair Work Ombudsman.
  • Senator Fielding will move the relevant amendments detailed when the Fair Work (Transitional Provisions and Consequential Amendments) Bill 2009 is debated before the Parliament.

Press Conference - 5.45PM Friday

ISSUES: Fair Work Bill

JULIA GILLARD:  This is an historic day. This is the day on which the Rudd Labor Government delivered and finally buried Work Choices. We promised the Australian people in 2007 we would get rid of these disgraceful and extreme laws. Today, we have.

Today we’ve got rid of these laws and every step of the way we’ve had to fight against Liberal Party opposition. Even today in the last hour in the Senate the Liberal Party was twisting and turning and fighting to keep Work Choices.

The Liberal Party brought Work Choices to this country. It started in operation three years ago. And every day since they’ve fought for its continuation but today, despite their opposition we have buried Work Choices. 

I want to thank the Australian Greens and Senators Fielding and Xenophon for being constructive contributors to this debate. The work with the Australian Greens and Senators Fielding and Xenophon shows just what can be achieved when people of good will, who are opposed to Work Choices, work together.

There has not been one Liberal amendment carried and in place in this debate. The Liberal Party has been left on the sidelines, bitterly crying out their support for Work Choices, as people of good will committed to fairness and balance in Australian workplaces have worked together to deliver this result. Can I say to all those Australians that campaigned so hard to make sure this nation did not keep these disgraceful laws, today is a day to be celebrated. We will now move to the era of fair work under Labor’s Fair Work Bill.

JOURNALIST: Malcolm Turnbull says that the real test of these laws will be any job losses over the next few years, are you worried about the prospect of job losses and what that will say about your laws?

JULIA GILLARD: Malcolm Turnbull will do and say anything to try and disguise the fact that he is a supporter of Work Choices; he leads a political party that supports Work Choices. Malcolm Turnbull is the man that went to the Australian people as recently as last December and said he respected Labor’s mandate and wouldn’t stand in our way and particularly, wouldn’t stand in our way bringing fair dismissal laws to Australians. And yet this week, every step of the way, including today, Malcolm Turnbull by his every deed and every action and every vote has voted for Work Choices.

JOURNALIST: Is that fair? He actually voted for the Fair Work Bill last night.

JULIA GILLARD: I think you would see from the performance of the Liberals in the Senate today, Malcolm Turnbull’s Liberals not less than an hour ago, bitterly shouting out and then forcing a division as part of their twisting and turning to keep Work Choices. The camera doesn’t lie and the camera is going to show a Senate vote for all of history that had the Liberal Party voting no against fairness and decency and balance in Australian workplaces.

JOURNALIST: Have you done a devious deal with Senator Fielding as Senator Abetz suggested?

JULIA GILLARD: Well once again, Senator Abetz is a Liberal Party member unbelievably committed to Work Choices and anybody put themselves through watching the Senate debate last night, would know exactly what Senator Abetz stands, he stands for Work Choices pure and simple. The arrangements the Labor Government has made with Senator Fielding are there for all to see in the letter that was tabled in the Senate.

What I have agreed with Senator Fielding is that we will have a transitional period of 18 months and in that transitional period the calculation of a small business for unfair dismissal purposes will be based of 15 Full Time Equivalent. At the end of the transition period, we will deliver in full the election promise we took to the Australian people. I thank Senator Fielding for his constructive contribution. I would also thank Senator Xenophon for his suggestions which the Government has agreed to, most particularly that there be specialist advisers for small and medium sized enterprises within Fair Work Australia who can assist small and medium sized enterprises who need advice.

JOURNALIST: You seemed a little emotional in the Senate. How does it feel to get such a big change through?

JULIA GILLARD: Look, I would have to say this has been campaigned for, worked for. Of course I have been involved in that campaigning and work but it is much bigger than anything I have ever done or indeed the Labor Party’s ever done. This result was brought to the Parliament today as a result of campaigning of hundreds of thousands of Australians of good will who stood up and said to the Liberal Party when in Government, we won’t stand for you taking away Australian decency, Australian fairness, a sense of a fair go at work. We won’t stand for it and we will campaign for it. And of course the Labor Party went to the election promising those Australians and promising all Australian we would deliver fairness and balance in Australian workplaces. And it’s great, after these many months of work, to get that done.

JOURNALIST: So is it a case of an alcopop or a good sleep tonight?

JULIA GILLARD: For me I suspect I’m owed a few hours sleep and I will certainly be looking forward to repaying some of that deficit tonight.

JOURNALIST: Ms Gillard, Senator Bob Brown said in the Chamber that Australia has avoided a double dissolution election as a result of these laws clearing the upper house, do you agree with that assessment?

JULIA GILLARD: Well, what we always said is what we believed. That we had pledged to the Australian people we would deliver fairness at work. We said that the Senate should not underestimate the Government’s resolve to get this job done. Now, its mission accomplished.

JOURNALIST: Do you think you would have gone to an election necessarily?

JULIA GILLARD: Well, the job is done. It’s been done now. It’s been done today. It’s been done by people of good will working together. Most particularly the Australian Greens and Senators Xenophon and Fielding and I thank them for their constructive contribution. They are people who always opposed Work Choices. The people who have been left on the sidelines, moaning and lamenting and clutching their copies of Work Choices, are the members of the Liberal Party.

 

 

28th Feb 2009

FAIR WORK BILL 2008
SECOND READING SPEECH
THE HON JULIA GILLARD MP
MINISTER FOR EMPLOYMENT AND WORKPLACE RELATIONS

I rise today one year on from the election of the Rudd Labor Government to deliver on a promise Labor made to the Australian people. Today we deliver the creation of a new workplace relations system, one that allows Australia to grasp the promise of the future without forgetting the values that made us who and what we are.

Over a century ago at Federation, Australians decided that we would be different to other nations. Democratic, yes. With parliamentary institutions, judicial independence and individual rights similar to those of other great democracies like the United Kingdom and the United States of America, but without their wide social inequalities.

And our Australian version of fairness began with industrial relations:

  • with the concept of the living wage, determined first in the Harvester Judgement;
  • with the idea that people's democratic rights don't cease when they step onto the factory, shop or office floor;
  • with recognition of the need for time for family, relaxation and community; and
  • with an end to divisive industrial conflict.

Before the November 2007 election, this set of values - which instill the essence of the Australian genius for fairness and enterprise - was attacked by the values contained in Work Choices.

The philosophy that underpinned Work Choices said, essentially: make your own way in the world; without the comfort of mateship; without the protections afforded by a compassionate society; against odds deliberately stacked against you. No safety net. No rights at work. No cooperation in the workplace to take the nation forward.

More than anything else, the 2007 election was a contest between these two visions of what Australia should be. And in November 2007, the Australian people settled the matter for once and for all. They chose to be true to the Australian ideal of a fair go. Their decision cost a Prime Minister not only his Government but his seat in this House.

They chose to reject Work Choices and all it stood for, and to put in its place the promises Labor made in its policy statement Forward with Fairness. They gave the Rudd Government the strongest possible popular mandate for the introduction of this Bill.

One year on from our election, the Rudd Government now delivers in full on those promises.

The Bill being introduced today is based on the enduring principle of fairness while meeting the needs of the modern age. It balances the interests of employers and employees and balances the granting of rights with the imposition of responsibilities. The Bill delivers:

  • a fair and comprehensive safety net of minimum employment conditions that cannot be stripped away;
  • a system that has at its heart bargaining in good faith at the enterprise level, as this essential to maximise workplace cooperation, improve economic productivity and create rising national prosperity;
  • protections from unfair dismissal for all employees;
  • protection and hope for a better future for the low-paid;
  • a balance between work and family life; and
  • the right to be represented in the workplace.

These rights are guaranteed by the legislation and overseen by a new industrial umpire, Fair Work Australia, that will operate with independence and balance.

Reflecting the Government's commitment to co-operative workplace relations, this Bill is the product of an unprecedented degree of consultation with employer and employee representatives and State and Territory governments.

One century on from Federation, and one year on from the election of the Rudd Labor Government, this Bill takes the Australian value of the fair go and builds around it a new workplace relations system ready to meet the needs of the nation in the 21st Century.

It's a good Bill for employees, for employers, for families and for the economy.

Only a Labor Government could have introduced this Bill because only Labor believes that the ideal of fairness should lie at the centre of our national life.

This Bill is simpler and shorter than Work Choices. It is easier to read and apply and is set out in six easy to follow parts.

OBJECTS OF THE BILL
The principal object of the Bill recognises the Government's intention to provide a balanced framework for cooperative and productive workplace relations that promotes national economic prosperity and social inclusion for all Australians.

This Bill guarantees a safety net of fair, relevant, and enforceable minimum terms and conditions for Australian workers that can no longer be undermined by the making of statutory individual employment agreements of any kind, given such agreements can never be part of a fair workplace relations system.

The Bill aims to achieve productivity and fairness through enterprise-level collective bargaining underpinned by the guaranteed safety net, simple good faith bargaining obligations and clear rules governing industrial action.

This Bill seeks to assist employees to balance their work and family responsibilities by providing for flexible arrangements.

The Bill ensures freedom of association and recognises that employees have the right to be represented at work by a union. The Bill contains protections against discrimination.

TERMS AND CONDITIONS OF EMPLOYMENT
The safety net
The Bill provides for a comprehensive safety net of minimum wages and employment conditions that cannot be stripped away. The safety net is in two parts.

The National Employment Standards comprise the ten legislated employment conditions covering essential conditions such as weekly hours of work, leave, public holidays, notice and redundancy pay and the right to request flexible working arrangements.

Modern awards are currently being developed by the Australian Industrial Relations Commission.

Modern awards will build on the National Employment Standards and will cover a further ten subject areas, including: minimum wages, arrangements for when work is performed, overtime and penalty rates, allowances, leave and leave loadings, superannuation and procedures for consultation, dispute resolution and the representation of employees.

Individual flexibility arrangements
The Bill provides that each modern award must include a flexibility term to enable employers and employees to negotiate an individual flexibility arrangement to meet their needs that may vary the application of specified award terms. The Bill provides strict protections to ensure that any such individual agreement is entirely voluntary and that an employee cannot be disadvantaged.

Modern awards and employees on high incomes
The Government recognises that awards have less relevance to employees earning high incomes. Under the Bill, an employer and an employee who is guaranteed to earn more than $100,000 indexed may enter a written guarantee that results in a modern award not applying. The Bill includes a number of important protections to ensure employees enter such an arrangement voluntarily.

Reviewing modern awards
The Bill requires Fair Work Australia to undertake four-yearly reviews of modern awards to ensure that they maintain a relevant and fair minimum safety net and continue to be relevant to the needs and expectations of the community.

The Bill allows adjustments to modern awards between the four-yearly reviews in limited circumstances, such as to deal with changes in the work value of classifications or to deal with pressing new circumstances affecting a particular award.

Minimum wages
The Bill provides for minimum wages in modern awards to be reviewed every year by a specialist Minimum Wage Panel within Fair Work Australia. The minimum wages in modern awards will override any lower rates in an enterprise agreement made under the Bill.

The Bill also requires Fair Work Australia to make a national minimum wage order to provide minimum wages for all award free employees.

Special provisions for outworkers
The Government is aware that outworkers are an acutely at-risk sector of the Australian workforce and require special protections, so the Bill ensures that awards may include special provisions dealing with outworkers. I also flag the Government's intention to carefully examine the provisions of the Bill concerning right of entry to investigate breaches of entitlements to ensure the Bill provides an effective compliance regime for at-risk workers in the textile, clothing and footwear industry. The Government will seek necessary refinements to the Bill concerning this matter through the Senate processes.

Equal remuneration
The Bill strengthens the equal remuneration provisions to include the principle of equal remuneration for work of comparable value.

Transfer of business
The Bill provides for a simpler and fairer scheme to deal with the transfer of employment rights and obligations if there is a ‘transfer of business' and a new employer takes on employees of the old employer.

ENTERPRISE AGREEMENTS
The Bill provides a new framework for enterprise bargaining which does not use any concept of union or non-union agreements. Instead, an agreement is made when approved by a valid majority of the employees to whom it will apply. A union that acted as a bargaining representative during the negotiations may apply to be covered by the agreement.

This new framework is premised on good faith bargaining and recognises that most workplaces already bargain in good faith without any intervention. However, where this does not happen, the Bill empowers Fair Work Australia to make orders to ensure compliance with the good faith bargaining requirements.

Bargaining for single interest employers
The principle category of bargaining is for single interest employers at the level of the enterprise. Single interest employers include joint ventures, common enterprises, related bodies corporate and employers specified in a single interest employer authorisation or declaration. A single interest employer authorisation or declaration can be made to bring certain very limited types of employers with a strong commonality of interest (such as franchisees of the same franchisor, or employers who receive substantial public funding) into this stream, but only where those employers seek to be allowed to bargain together.

In the single interest bargaining stream, employees have the right to take protected industrial action. Employees may only take protected industrial action where they are genuinely trying to make agreements at the enterprise level. Pattern bargaining is not permitted.

Fair Work Australia is empowered to make certain kinds of orders as part of its oversight of the bargaining process.

Majority Support Orders
Firstly, the Bill provides that where an employer refuses to bargain with its employees, an employee bargaining representative can ask Fair Work Australia to determine if there is majority employee support for negotiating an enterprise agreement. If so, the employer will be required to bargain collectively with its employees in good faith.

Scope orders
Secondly, the Bill provides that Fair Work Australia may make a scope order if it is satisfied that bargaining for a proposed enterprise agreement is not proceeding efficiently or fairly because the group of employees to whom a proposed agreement will apply has not been fairly chosen.

Good faith bargaining orders
Thirdly, the Bill sets out good faith bargaining requirements that a bargaining representative for a proposed enterprise agreement must meet, including: attending, and participating in, meetings at reasonable times; disclosing relevant information; responding to proposals; giving genuine consideration to the proposals of others and giving reasons for responses to those proposals; and refraining from capricious or unfair conduct that undermines freedom of association or collective bargaining.

The Bill specifies that the good faith bargaining requirements do not require a bargaining representative to make concessions during bargaining or to reach agreement on the terms that are to be included in the agreement. Parties are entitled to take a tough stance in negotiations.

In the very unusual case where a negotiating party completely ignores good faith bargaining orders, the other party may apply to Fair Work Australia to intervene and to make a workplace determination. This will ensure there is no advantage to be gained by flouting the law.

Multi – employer bargaining
The Bill provides that where employees and employers genuinely wish to bargain on a multi-employer basis they will be free to do so. Protected industrial action and good faith bargaining orders are not available in these circumstances.

The Bill provides it is unlawful to coerce an employer to make a multi-employer agreement or to discriminate against the employer if they have not made a multi­employer agreement.

Bargaining for the low paid
The Bill provides a new scheme of bargaining for low paid employees. There is significant evidence that enterprise bargaining benefits employees, employers and the economy and we want more Australians to benefit from it. Currently, many employees in industries like child care, community work, security and cleaning struggle to bargain effectively with their employers. To facilitate the entry of these types of employees and their employers into enterprise bargaining, the Bill provides for a special low-paid bargaining stream.

Protected industrial action is not available, but Fair Work Australia will have the obligation to facilitate the making of agreements and will play a hands-on role to get the parties bargaining. For example, Fair Work Australia may convene and chair conferences, help to identify productivity improvements to underpin an agreement and generally guide the parties through the negotiating process.

The Bill provides for the possibility of a workplace determination in the low­paid stream in two circumstances – by agreement or if there is no reasonable prospect of an agreement being made. In the latter case, access to a workplace determination is subject to strict criteria, including that there is no enterprise agreement in place and that the employment conditions of the employees are substantially those set out in the safety net. When making a determination, Fair Work Australia must consider how productivity in the business may be improved and the need to maintain the competitiveness of the employer.

Representation in bargaining
The Bill provides that employees are entitled to have their union represent them in bargaining or appoint another person, such as a colleague. Employers may also appoint a bargaining representative.

The Bill also requires employers to give written notice to all employees of their right to be represented in the bargaining when the employer initiates bargaining or if a majority support determination, low paid authorisation or a scope order is made.

Agreement content
The Bill provides that all matters pertaining to the relationship between the employer and its employees, as well as to the relationship between the employer and a union representing those employees will be the subject of bargaining.

Agreements can also deal with the deduction of wages for any purpose authorised by the employee and contain terms dealing with how the agreement will operate. This means salary-sacrifice and pay-roll deduction arrangements and terms setting out how the parties agree to conduct negotiations for a replacement agreement can now be included in agreements.

The Bill provides that only terms that are about the relationship between the employer and the employee will be able to be the subject of protected industrial action. For example, employees will not be permitted to take protected industrial action in pursuit of a claim that the employer should make a donation to a charity or should start to manufacture a particular product.

Required agreement content
The Bill provides that in order to be approved by Fair Work Australia, an enterprise agreement must contain:

a flexibility term that allows individual flexibility arrangements, subject to specified protections;
a dispute settlement process that must involve either Fair Work Australia or another person or body independent of the parties and that provides for the representation of employees in the process; and
a term providing for consultation with employees about major workplace changes and that provides for the representation of employees in that process.

Approval of Agreements
The Bill provides that Fair Work Australia must not approve an agreement that includes terms that are inconsistent with unfair dismissal, right of entry, National Employment Standards and the general protection provisions of the Act. Fair Work Australia must also be satisfied that:

the employer and a valid majority of the employees to whom the agreement will apply genuinely agree to the agreement; and
each employee would be better off overall under the agreement in comparison to the relevant modern award.

Workplace determinations
There are times when, despite their best efforts, parties cannot reach agreement. To assist the parties, the Bill enables Fair Work Australia to exercise broad conciliation powers at the request of one of the parties.

Provided the parties have bargained in good faith, the Bill provides that they will be able to walk away without having a settlement imposed on them.

Where the parties agree, the Bill provides that Fair Work Australia may also make a binding determination on matters in dispute.

In those limited circumstances where protected industrial action is occurring in a bargaining context that has a particularly negative or dangerous impact, the Bill provides scope for Fair Work Australia to resolve the dispute by making a workplace determination.

Firstly, the Bill incorporates the long standing capacity for a workplace determination to be made where industrial action in threatening (or would threaten) to endanger the life, personal safety or health or welfare of the population or part of it or to cause significant damage to the economy.

Second, a new ground in the Bill for the making of a workplace determination is where protracted industrial action is causing significant economic harm to the bargaining participants, or such harm is imminent. This provision is intended to apply only to the very small number of disputes where industrial action continues for an extended period, where the employees and the employer suffer greatly and yet the parties are so entrenched in their positions that there is no prospect of a breakthrough in negotiations.

RIGHTS AND RESPONSIBILITIES
General protections
The Bill incorporates the current provisions relating to freedom of association, unlawful termination and other miscellaneous protections into a streamlined and easy to follow Part titled General Protections. In doing so, the Bill provides more comprehensive protections for workers in some situations.

The Bill's general protections ensure that employees remain free to choose to be represented by a union, provide more comprehensive protections for those participating in collective activities (such as representing other employees or bargaining). The Bill provides sanctions where a person takes adverse action because someone exercises one of those rights.

The Bill will protect individuals who are subject to adverse treatment because they have or seek to exercise a ‘workplace right' such as being entitled to the benefit of an award or agreement or making a complaint or inquiry.

Employees with carer's responsibilities will also now be protected from discriminatory treatment.

Unfair dismissal
Under Work Choices, employees in businesses with up to 100 workers could be dismissed for any reason without rights to challenge the dismissal.

The Bill provides a new scheme of unfair dismissal protections to ensure good employees are protected from being dismissed unfairly, while enabling employers to manage under-performing employees with fairness and with confidence.

Employees of a small business will not be able to claim for unfair dismissal until after they have served a qualifying period of twelve months, while for larger businesses, the qualifying period is six months.

‘Operational reasons' will no longer be a defence to a claim of unfair dismissal. However, a dismissal is not unfair if it is for reasons of genuine redundancy.

The Bill recognises that small businesses do not have the human resources support that larger businesses enjoy. The Bill provides for the publication of a simple Small Business Fair Dismissal Code which, if followed, will ensure a dismissal is not found to be unfair. The Code requires the giving of a warning, based on a reason that validly relates to the employee's performance or capacity to do the job, and a reasonable opportunity for the employee to improve his or her performance. The Code makes it clear the employer has the right to dismiss without notice an employee for serious misconduct.

The process for Fair Work Australia dealing with unfair dismissal applications will be streamlined and simplified.

Industrial action, secret ballots and strike pay
The Bill provides clear rules to govern industrial action. The Bill distinguishes between protected industrial action which may legitimately occur during bargaining and unprotected industrial action taken outside of bargaining.

The Bill requires employees to approve industrial action through a secret ballot, while streamlining the ballot process.

When protected industrial action occurs, employers must deduct pay for the actual period of time the employee stopped work. If partial work bans are implemented, employers will be able to issue a notice and deduct a proportion of pay, with any disputes resolved by Fair Work Australia. The Bill provides that pre-emptive lockouts – taken by the employer where the employees have not taken any industrial action – will no longer be protected action.

For unprotected industrial action, such as industrial action during the life of an agreement, the Bill provides that employees will face a mandatory minimum deduction of four hours' pay.

Right of entry
The Bill provides a fair and proper balance between the rights of employees and their union to meet in the workplace and the rights of employers to run their businesses without interference.

The Bill provides a right for members of a union that is eligible to represent their industrial interests (and potential members of that union) to meet with their union at the workplace during non-working hours for the purpose of holding discussions. No employee can be discriminated against for participating in, or declining to participate in, such discussions.

The Bill provides that the right to enter premises to hold discussions comes with strict obligations, including the holding of a valid right of entry permit, the giving of 24 hours' notice to enter and requirements for conduct while on site.

Unions will continue to be able to investigate alleged breaches of workplace obligations that affect a member or members of the union. The right is subject to strict requirements. Unions will be able to look at and copy employment records of all employees but only where those records are relevant to the suspected breach being investigated.

The Bill includes new protections against misuse of information obtained by the union investigating suspected breaches.

COMPLIANCE AND ENFORCEMENT
The Bill establishes an integrated framework to oversee the new workplace relations system.

Fair Work Australia
The Bill establishes Fair Work Australia to act as a one-stop shop for information, advice and assistance on workplace issues, by merging the functions currently performed across seven government agencies.

Fair Work Australia will be independent and will be focused on providing fast and effective assistance for employers and employees.

Fair Work Divisions of the courts
Fair Work Divisions will be created in the Federal Court and the Federal Magistrate's Court to hear matters which arise under the new workplace relations laws.

The Courts will have new and more effective powers to deal with any breaches of the Act and entitlements, including the power to make ‘any order they consider appropriate' to remedy a breach as well as injunctions to restrain breaches.

A new user-friendly small claims jurisdiction will be provided where the Court will not be bound by the rules of evidence and may act in an informal manner.

Fair Work Ombudsman
The Bill establishes the Office of Fair Work Ombudsman, with functions including promoting harmonious and cooperative workplace relations and compliance by providing education, assistance and advice.

Transition to the new system
It is intended that the Bill will commence on 1 July 2009. However, consistent with election policy commitments, the National Employment Standards and modern awards will commence on 1 January 2010.

Separate legislation, the Transitional Bill, will be introduced in the first half of 2009 to set out transitional and consequential changes to ensure a smooth, simple and fair transition to the new scheme, while providing for certainty.

The Transitional Bill will:

  • ensure that an employee's take home pay is not reduced as a result of the employee's transition onto a modern award by allowing for Fair Work Australia to make orders to deal with any such matter;
  • provide that existing agreements will continue to apply until terminated or replaced by a new agreement made under the new bargaining framework;
  • ensure a fair safety net with the National Employment Standards and minimum wages applying to all employees from 1 January 2010, including those covered by existing agreements; and
  • allow parties to ‘modernise' enterprise awards so that they can continue to operate in the new system and treat Notional Agreements Preserving State Awards (NAPSAs) derived from State enterprise awards in the same way.

NATIONAL SYSTEM FOR THE PRIVATE SECTOR
The Bill will apply to 'national system' employers and their employees, relying principally on the corporations' power of the Constitution.

The Government is working with States and Territories to achieve a national workplace relations system for the private sector.

The Bill will exclude State and Territory industrial laws but not in areas such as discrimination, workers' compensation and occupational health and safety.

CONCLUSION
This Bill ensures balance and fairness in Australian workplaces.

Work Choices made the mistake of swinging the workplace relations pendulum to the extreme, destroying the employment safety net and stripping away basic industrial rights for employees.

The Fair Work Bill 2008 recognises the importance of balance. Balance in terms of supporting entrepreneurship, initiative and the growth of the businesses that produce our goods and services and employ others, while providing for fair and decent work for employees and a fair return for their labour.

With the introduction today of the Fair Work Bill, Work Choices is tantalisingly close to being gone forever, along with the careers of those who tried to foist it, without a mandate and without transparency, on an unwilling Australia people.

This Bill achieves the right balance in a way that is true to the values that made us who and what we are.

The world is a lot different to the one in which Australia devised the original conciliation and arbitration system more than one hundred years ago. Economic reform, globalization, new technologies and rising levels of education have rendered the old ways obsolete.

Today building greater opportunity for all Australians requires a degree of flexibility and responsiveness that would have been unimaginable to previous generations. Competition is sharper and innovation faster.

But in this new world, Australians voted for a workplace relations system that delivers a fair go, the benefits of mateship at work, a decent safety net and a fair way of striking a bargain.

That's what this Bill does.

 

 

 

 

25th November 2008

 

Today the Minister for Workplace Relations Julia Gillard introduced the Government's new laws which will dismantle WorkChoices legislation, which she says will create a fairer system for both workers and employers.

The Fair Work bill now covers all workers under unfair dismissal laws, establishes Fair Work Australia, legislates for "good faith" collective bargaining and does not differentiate between a union or non-union agreement.

Ms Gillard explained that the bill delivers on the Federal Government's election promises.

"The bill being introduced today is based on the enduring principle of fairness while meeting the needs of the modern age," .

"The bill delivers a fair and comprehensive safety net of minimum employment conditions that cannot be stripped away - a system that has at its heart bargaining in good faith at the enterprise level as this is essential to maximise workplace cooperation and improve productivity and create rising national prosperity."

The legislation establishes the Fair Work Australia policy which will facilitate and approve collective bargaining agreements, deal with unfair dismissal claims and workplace disputes, and adjust minimum wages.

Fair Work Australia (FWA) will replace six other existing bodies, including the Australian Industrial Relations Commission, the Australian Fair Pay Commission, the Workplace Ombudsman and the Australian Building and Construction Commission.

If an employer refuses to take part in bargaining, FWA can order them to take part if it finds that a majority of employees want to collectively bargain.

Ms Gillard says the bill also does not recognise any difference between union or non-union agreements.

"Instead an agreement is made when approved by a valid majority of the employees to whom it will apply," she said.

"A union that acted as a bargaining representative during the negotiations may apply to be covered by the agreement.

"This new framework is premised by good faith bargaining."

To be approved by FWA, agreements must be ruled as making employees "better off overall" and must comply with the 10 National Employment Standards.

The 10 National Employment Standards which include such provisions as a 38-hour week, four weeks' annual leave and a right to request flexible working arrangements are included in the legislation.

Low income workers will now also be able to use enterprise bargaining.

Pattern bargaining will not be allowed and employers can only lock out employees in response to action taken by workers.

All employees will now be eligible to apply for an unfair dismissal claim.

However, a worker employed with a firm of less than 15 people must be employed with the firm for at least 12 months before they are eligible.

Those who work for larger firms will be eligible after six months.

The bill also includes new modern awards which will begin on January 1, 2010.

Ms Gillard says the new awards must make provision for individual flexibility arrangements, which means a worker can agree with an employee on specific arrangements which can be allowed.

The awards will be reviewed every four years by Fair Work Australia.

 

 

5th November 2008

 

Today’s 78th meeting of the Workplace Relations Ministers’ Council (WRMC) saw progress in the development of national workplace relations and occupational health and safety (OHS) arrangements. The meeting again reflected the spirit of cooperative federalism which has been the hallmark of the Council’s deliberations throughout 2008.

 

 

Minimum Wage Increase Announcement

 

1st October 208

 

The Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations, Julia Gillard has welcomed today’s increase in the minimum wage.

The increase in the minimum wage will go some way to assist low-paid Australians cope with increasing economic pressures.

The new rates were determined by the Australian Fair Pay Commission earlier this year.

The decision also increases adult rates of pay in Australian Pay and Classification Scales (Pay Scales) by approximately $21.66 per week.

From today, the new Federal Minimum Wage is $543.78 per week ($14.31 per hour) up from $522.12 per week ($13.74 per hour).

The increases will flow on to minimum rates of pay for junior employees, employees to whom training arrangements apply, employees with a disability and piece workers.

Some of Australia’s most vulnerable employees including many in retail, accommodation, cafes and restaurants and health and community services will benefit from this increase.

From 1 January 2010, under the Government’s workplace relations system, minimum wages will be set by a new independent body, the Fair Work Australia Minimum Wages Panel.

Employers and employees wanting more information about the wage increase are encouraged to call the Workplace Info line on 1300 363 264

 

 

National Industrial Relations Summit Speech


17th Septmeber 2008


The signature values of nations are often defined by the circumstances of their birth.This is as true for Australia as for other countries. And for us there’s one value above all others that we identify with as truly our own. It’s the value that emerged out of the circumstances of Federation, which coincided with the industrial turbulence of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.

That value is fairness. Or as we like to put it: ‘the fair go’. It inspired us to establish a society that aimed to give every citizen a decent standard of living. And it led us in 1907 to establish the principle of the living wage.............

 

20th August 2008

 

FORWARD WITH FAIRNESS, CERTAINTY AND CONSULTATION

The modern workplace relations agenda is the reverse of Lawson’s – it’s about ensuring cooperative fair workplaces. Today, I want to outline how we will realise that modern agenda.

And I want to start with a word of reassurance. There are no nasty surprises in store for anyone in the reforms that we’re making. The reforms we took to the Australian people at the last election will comprise the essential shape and detail of Australia’s new workplace relations system. Our intention is to fulfil our democratic mandate – something that wasn’t a part of Work Choices...........

 

 

8th July 2008

New Minimum Wage Increase announced

The Australian Fair Pay Commission (AFPC) has today announced an increase of $21.66 per week to the Federal Minimum Wage (FMW). The AFPC’s decision increases the FMW to $543.78 per week ($14.31 per hour) up from $522.12 per week ($13.74 per hour).

This is a 4.15 per cent increase and will come into effect from the first pay period on or after 1 October 2008, 12 months after the previous annualised increase of 2.4 per cent.

The Government believes the increase is appropriate to the current economic conditions.

The decision to increase the federal minimum wages will directly benefit around 1.3 million Australians, who are in the Federal system and rely on minimum wages.

Today’s decision helps these families keep pace with cost of living increases. The Rudd Government’s tax cuts provide an extra benefit to assist with cost of living pressures.

This is acknowledged in the AFPC’s decision, which states that “this increase of $21.66 per week, together with relevant tax and transfer changes, will provide low income households with real increases in disposable income” (p. 8).

An employee earning the FMW will receive a tax cut of $8.65 per week in addition to the wage increase of $21.66.

A federal award reliant employee earning $676.42 a week will receive a weekly pay increase of $21.66 and a tax cut of $20.19 a week.

The AFPC has estimated that the combined effect of the increase in the FMW and the Government’s tax and transfer payment changes mean a single worker earning the FMW, will see their disposable income increase by 5.7 per cent and for a couple both earning the FMW with two children, their disposable income will increase by 5.5 per cent.

In its submissions to the AFPC, the Government submitted that the AFPC should grant an increase in minimum wages, so that those who rely on minimum wages share in the strong growth in prosperity in Australia.

There is no implication for wage inflation forecasts because the AFPC’s minimum wage decision is consistent with the assumptions on wage growth already factored into Budget forecasts.

In addition, the AFPC’s assessment of the impact of the determination on inflation was measured against a scenario where there was no increase in minimum wages.

The Government also submitted that any increase to the FMW be balanced against any potential impact on inflation, employment, the provision of a safety net and the financial needs of low paid employees.

The Government has committed to retaining the AFPC until 2010. From that date, minimum wages will be set by the Government’s new industrial umpire, Fair Work Australia.

 

16th June 2008

The Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd and Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations Julia Gillard, today released the new National Employment Standards (NES).

The NES are a key element of the Rudd Government’s new modern workplace relations system and will come into effect on 1 January 2010.

The NES will ensure that all employees are protected by a strong safety net of fair minimum conditions that can’t be stripped away.

The NES will apply to all employees in the Federal system regardless of industry, occupation or income.

The NES were developed following extensive consultation and consideration of submissions to the exposure draft which was released on 14 February 2008.

129 submissions were received from a wide range of stakeholders, including: employee and employer groups; businesses; community organisations and individuals.

The Rudd Government’s consultative approach is in stark contrast to that of the previous Liberal government.

The NES will be simpler for Australian employers.

The Work Choices standard runs to 149 pages of complexity, provides only five minimum conditions and many of the protections provided are sub-standard.

The NES, in contrast provides 10 vital protections in just 50 pages.

The NES provide employers with the flexibility and simplicity they need while also ensuring employees’ key entitlements are protected.

The NES are:

  1. Maximum weekly hours of work
  2. Request for flexible working arrangements
  3. Parental leave and related entitlements
  4. Annual leave
  5. Personal/Carer’s leave and compassionate leave
  6. Community service leave
  7. Long service leave
  8. Public holidays
  9. Notice of termination and redundancy pay
  10. Fair Work Information Statement

The Government will shortly issue a revised Award Modernisation Request to the Australian Industrial Relations Commission (AIRC) attaching the NES to assist in its task of modernising awards.

The NES and award modernisation are integral components of the Government’s commitment to deliver a modern workplace relations system to benefit all Australians.

Legislation will be introduced into Parliament later this year to give effect to the Government’s commitment. The legislation will include other aspects of workplace relations relating to the NES including compliance, interaction with agreement making and future reviews.

The National Employment Standards in more detail can be found at www.fwa.gov.au

 

28th March 2008

The Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations today proclaimed with the Governor General the Workplace Relations Amendment (Transition to Forward with Fairness) Act 2008.

The proclamation of the Act is the beginning of the end of the previous Liberal Government's extreme Work Choices laws which were introduced two years ago today.

The legislation reflects the Rudd Government's election commitments, which were set out in Forward with Fairness and the Forward with Fairness Implementation Policy Plan. The key previsions of the Transition to Forward with Fairness Act:

  • Prevents the making of new Australian Workplace Agreements;
  • Allows employers using AWAs as at 1 December 2007 to offer Individual Transitional Employment Agreements (ITEAs) to new employees and employers already on AWAs, for the transition period while award modernisation takes place;
  • Introduces a genuine no-disadvantage test for new collective agreements and ITEAs;
  • Enables the Australian Industrial Relations Commission (AIRC) to undertake the process of award modernisation; and
  • Removes the requirement for employers to provide the Workplace Relations Fact Sheet to their employees.

Following the nominal expiry date of an AWA made under Work Choices, it may be terminated unilaterally by either the employer or employee on 90 days’ notice. The employee would then be entitled to the benefit of the whole of an applicable collective agreement or award in the workplace.

As requested by employer and employee representatives, the Act will allow parties to retain pre-Work Choices certified agreements and to extend or vary those agreements in limited circumstances to avoid a odouble transition prior to the commencement of the Government’s new workplace relations system in 2010.

The Government will introduce its substantive workplace relations reforms into Parliament later this year after extensive consultation, to ensure that the Rudd Government's new workplace relations system is fair, flexible and productive.

 

 

 

 

14th February 2008

WORKPLACE RELATIONS AMENDMENT (TRANSITION TO FORWARD WITH FAIRNESS) BILL 2008


Almost three months ago the Australian people voted for change.
They voted for a change of Government.
And in doing so, they voted for a change to our workplace relations laws.


Today the Government begins the process of change by introducing the Workplace Relations Amendment (Transition to Forward with Fairness) Bill 2008 into this Parliament.
With this Bill, the Government delivers on key election commitments it made to the Australian people; commitments the Australian people endorsed in November.
I want to take one moment to describe just how clear those commitments were.


When the Prime Minister became Leader of the Labor Party and I became Deputy Leader in December 2006, we promised to abolish Australian Workplace Agreements.
In April last year, we published our workplace relations policy, Forward with Fairness and confirmed that, if elected, we would abolish Australian Workplace Agreements.


In August we released our Forward with Fairness Policy Implementation Plan which reiterated Labor’s commitment to abolish Australian Workplace Agreements while setting out the sensible transitional arrangements a Rudd Labor Government would adopt for implementing this key commitment. This policy made it clear that, when Labor’s workplace relations system was fully operational, there would be no AWAs and no other statutory individual employment agreements.....

To see the rest of this article please go here

 

There are a number of useful articles on the internet that explain the changes that the Fair Work Australia Policy will have upon workplaces, employers and employees.

Fair Work Australia - Serious Questions asked about Viability by Heather Ridout Australian Industry Group cheif Executive.

 

Business as usual but big workplace changes are on their way by NSW Business Chamber

 

 

 

 

 

 
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