Labor moves to end uncertainty :  validate all certified agreement clauses

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Labor moves to end uncertainty : validate all certified agreement clauses

Labor’s federal Caucus wants certified agreements with non-employment related clauses validated in their entirety to clear up uncertainty over the High Court’s Electrolux decision.

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Labor’s federal Caucus wants certified agreements with non-employment related clauses validated in their entirety to clear up uncertainty over the High Court’s Electrolux decision. 

At its meeting today Caucus resolved to try to amend Government legislation so that it achieved that outcome.  

The Federal Government has introduced legislation to Parliament that validates only those elements of the agreements that are employment related. 

It has left it up to the AIRC and the courts to work out which clauses in certified agreements are employment-related and which are not. 

Opposition amendments

The Opposition amendments will seek to validate agreements certified before the Electrolux decisions unconditionally, to the full extent of their existing terms, and to validate protected action that may have been taken in the process of negotiating an enterprise agreement. 

Stephen Smith, Shadow Minister for Industry, Infrastructure and Industrial Relations said Labor’s starting point is that it is imperative that the uncertainty caused by the Electrolux decision be resolved before Parliament rises this year. 

He said Labor supports the purpose of the Government’s Bill in providing certainty for those certified agreements which are potentially invalid as a result of the decision in Electrolux. 

‘However, the way in which the Bill goes about providing that certainty can be improved,’ he said. 

‘Far from resolving issues created by the Electrolux decision, the Bill could allow uncertainty to continue because many clauses of collective agreements are yet to be tested before the Full Bench of the Australian Industrial Relations Commission or by a Court, and may not be tested for some time.  

‘Until each contentious provision is properly and authoritatively considered, it will remain unclear which parts of certified agreements are enforceable.’  

He said Labor believes that the better approach would be to validate the whole of existing certified agreements, allowing each provision to continue to have effect until the expiry date of the agreement. 

‘Agreements already certified by the Industrial Relations Commission have been made in good faith, between employers and employees,’ Smith said. ‘In reaching these agreements, employers and employees have agreed on the entirety of their terms.  

‘Labor will therefore seek to amend the Bill to validate the whole of the terms previously agreed in good faith by employers and employees. 

‘Labor’s approach, however, will ensure that one way or the other the uncertainty caused by the Electrolux decision will be resolved before Parliament rises this year.’ 

Yesterday the Senate’s Employment, Workplace Relations and Education Committee, which has been been examining the Bill, split over its final report.

The Government Senators on the committee unsurprisingly backed the Government’s legislation. 

The Opposition Senators found that the Bill was flawed in at least four ways: 

  1. It does not provide certainty to parties to certified agreements which came into force before the Electrolux decision, or which are awaiting certification by the Commission.
  2. The Bill does not attempt to resolve the uncertainty about the bargaining process and certification of agreements after Electrolux, as parties are unable to reach agreements which they know to be final and enforceable.
  3. The Bill has the effect of altering the terms of existing enterprise agreements, thus interfering with the substance of agreements entered into in good faith by employers and employees.
  4. Under the proposed legislation, parties undertaking industrial action will not know with any certainty whether or not the action is protected from legal sanction.

The legislation is expected to be debated this week.

 Related

Validate all agreement clauses: ALP 

The Electrolux aftermath: AIRC decisions filling the vacuum? 

 

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