ACCI argues for long-term ‘AWAs’

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ACCI argues for long-term ‘AWAs’

A leading employer group says Labor’s interim IR legislation is ‘realistic and pragmatic’ but wants more employees to be able to sign interim workplace agreements, or ITEAs, which can last for up to five years.

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A leading employer group says Labor’s interim IR legislation is ‘realistic and pragmatic’ but wants more employees to be able to sign interim workplace agreements, or ITEAs, which can last for up to five years.

Currently, the only employers who can sign new workers to ITEAs are those who had employees on AWAs as at 1 December 2007, and all ITEAs expire on 31 December 2009.

Acceptance by the Government of ACCI’s submission on five-year ITEAs would effectively see pre-WorkChoices ‘no-disadvantage test’ (NDT) AWAs exist into the foreseeable future.

Coalition policy

This was the policy being promoted by Liberal IR spokeswoman Julie Bishop and other pro-WorkChoices supporters before the Coalition decided to cut its losses and abandon WorkChoices altogether.

Effectively ACCI wants ITEAs that:

  • are available to all employers
  • are available for all former and new employees
  • have a maximum nominal expiry date of five years.

In a submission to the Senate Committee inquiring into the legislation, the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (ACCI) said a number of amendments should be made to smooth the transition from the WorkChoices system.

ACCI said it had convened two days of meetings with more than 30 industrial relations experts from the employer movement to develop a thorough 100-page submission that provided a collective insight into Australia-wide employer reaction to the Bill.

Of the issues dealt with by the Bill, ACCI is supporting initiatives to modernise awards, to remove the obligation to distribute a workplace relations fact sheet, and to replace the fairness test with a global and more workable NDT against which agreements are assessed.

Flexibility needed

Peter Anderson, acting chief executive, said that while ACCI is concerned at the removal of the AWA system without a comparable substitute being apparent, or individual flexibility clauses in modernised awards being available to employers, its submission recognises that the Government’s ITEA system ‘goes part of the way to providing a transition in workplaces using AWAs’.

The major amendments proposed by ACCI are:

  • allowing a wider range of employees to access ITEAs, especially former employee and those not working regular rosters such as casuals and daily hire workers;
  • applying the NDT for new agreements against award and legislative standards, not collective agreements;
  • ensuring that wages form part of the NDT, not just employment conditions;
  • creating a fast-track approval process for agreements lodged by unions or employer bodies;
  • not imposing new employment obligations in non award workplaces simply as a result of agreements failing to meet the NDT;
  • allowing agreements to be approved on the basis of legal undertakings by the employer to increase remuneration, rather than requiring the delay and cost of new ballots;
  • reverting to the pre-WorkChoices rules for terminating collective agreements;
  • enabling pay scales to be published during the transition period; and
  • providing that modernised awards will not apply to employees earning above $100,000, as per government policy.

Visit ACCI for the submission.


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