Enterprise agreements escape rationalisation process - unless majority agrees

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Enterprise agreements escape rationalisation process - unless majority agrees

Rationalisation of the Federal award system will be done by the AIRC on an industry basis, but enterprise awards will only be altered if 'the substantial majority' of the parties concerned agree.

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Rationalisation of the Federal award system will be done by the AIRC on an industry basis, but enterprise awards will only be altered if 'the substantial majority' of the parties concerned agree.

These are key elements of the report of the Award Review Taskforce, which was released today.

However the Federal Government has hedged its bets slightly on the full report, with Workplace Relations Minister Kevin Andrews saying the Government 'supports all of the Taskforce's proposed principles, either in full or in part'.

The Government now proposes issuing award rationalisation requests to the AIRC on a sectoral basis, with the scope and timing of the initial award rationalisation request yet to be settled.

Consult key stakeholders

Andrews said the Government will consult key stakeholders prior to finalising the initial award rationalisation request.

Under WorkChoices Federal awards were retained and employees not covered by a workplace agreement continue to work under their Federal awards.  The Taskforce was established to recommend ways of reducing the duplication and complexity of current Federal awards - an approach supported by employers and unions, though not necessarily with a full commitment to the outcome.

'The Award Rationalisation report recommends a number of principles which the Taskforce proposes be applied by the AIRC when rationalising awards,' Andrews said. 'Among other things the Taskforce has proposed that awards be rationalised on an industry basis. The Government supports all of the Taskforce's proposed principles, either in full or in part.

Majority must agree

'In particular, the Government acknowledges that enterprise awards should only be subsumed by a rationalised award in circumstances where the substantial majority of parties to the enterprise award support such an approach. Where they do not, then the award should continue to operate.'

Andrews said that, as indicated in its response to the Taskforce's report, the Government proposes issuing award rationalisation requests to the AIRC on a sectoral basis, with the scope and timing of the initial award rationalisation request yet to be settled.

'The Government will consult key stakeholders prior to finalising the initial award rationalisation request,' he said.

Andrews said the need to modernise the award system has long been recognised by workplace relations practitioners and 'others who have to navigate their way through the myriad of awards and detailed award provisions that currently exist'.

'Importantly, the award rationalisation process is not a benefit-cutting exercise,' he said. 'Rationalising award structures is critical to moving towards a simpler, fairer workplace relations system.'

Broad proposal

The Foreword to the report indicates the broad impact of the proposals:

'This report proposes the adoption of a series of interrelated principles which, if adopted by the Government, and reflected in the Minister's rationalisation requests to the Australian Industrial Relations Commission (AIRC), would result in awards applying across all Australian industries, to employees traditionally regarded as award covered.

'These principles provide a mechanism for the substantial reduction in the number of awards applicable to constitutional corporations from the pre-March 2006 number of 4000 to a maximum number more likely to be between 100 and 150. The final number of awards would depend on the AIRC assessments of the best way to ensure that these statements of minimum standards best reflect relevant existing award benefits.

'These proposed principles also recognise that the protection of certain existing award entitlements, built into the amended legislation through preserved and protected existing award provisions, adds a necessary complexity to the structure of awards under the amended legislation. The principles propose suggestions about an approach to minimise this complexity.

'Rationalised awards will retain an important function in the new workplace relations structure regarding the working arrangements of employees not covered by agreements.

'On at least an interim basis, the terms of these awards may remain matters of interest even where agreements apply. Finally, reconfiguring the traditional award system brings with it the need to recognise that this traditional system has also been used to help define areas of union and employer organisation coverage. These mechanisms will need to be reconsidered.

'In the light of these significant issues, the Taskforce proposes that stakeholders be given an opportunity to comment on these suggested principles before they are finally recommended to the Government. The Taskforce believes that a limited delay in the completion of this important task is warranted so as to allow this opportunity for comment.

'Accordingly, the potential exists for changes to be made to the recommendations in this report to reflect views that may be expressed to the Taskforce over the coming weeks. Finally, the assistance provided to me by the Reference Group, the Award Review Taskforce Secretariat, and particularly, interested stakeholders, has been very much appreciated as it has enabled comprehensive consideration of this complex and contentious issue.'

Full report

The Taskforce's award rationalisation report was prepared following extensive consultation with a range of interested parties, including employer, union and community groups.

A detailed summary of the report will be available soon on the WorkplaceInfo website.

Copies of the Taskforce's report and the Government's response can be found at the Taskforce's website.

Note the Award Review Taskforce Report on Award Rationalisation report, released 3 November 2006, is dated July 2006 - reflecting the time the Taskforce commenced its work.

Related

Award Review Taskforce Report - released September 2006

Award review will cut wages says Labor, but bosses welcome it

  

 

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