Validate all agreement clauses: ALP

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Validate all agreement clauses: ALP

Current uncertainty over which federal certified agreement clauses are valid and which are not can be resolved by validating all clauses in existing agreements until the agreements expire, according to the ALP.

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Current uncertainty over which federal certified agreement clauses are valid and which are not can be resolved by validating all clauses in existing agreements until the agreements expire, according to the ALP.

The uncertainty stems from the recent Electrolux High Court decision.

The Coalition is attempting to rectify the problem with the Workplace Relations Agreement Validation Bill 2004.

However, the ALP feels the current form of the Bill doesn’t do enough to resolve the issue.

High Court confusion

The High Court ruled that agreements can only be certified if all the provisions are 'employment related'. But, apart from excluding bargaining fees and political and social issues, it didn’t qualify the extent of employment related matters.

'This decision has wide ramifications and there has been considerable debate since as to which provisions might fall foul of the decision,' Shadow Industrial Relations Minister Stephen Smith told a meeting of ACTU industrial officers in Melbourne yesterday.

'And because many enterprise agreements are likely to contain provisions that don't pertain to the employment relationship they are technically invalid.'

Smith said that as a matter of general principle employers and employees should be entitled to freely and voluntarily reach agreement on any matters they want to, as so long as it is lawful to do so.

He said the current uncertainty of what was valid and what was not was an 'unwelcome development'.

'It is important that the uncertainty be resolved before Parliament rises this year,' he said. 'To do nothing is not a viable operation.’

Validation Bill not enough

However, the Coalition sees the Workplace Relations Agreement Validation Bill 2004, which it introduced into parliament last week, as a way to lessen the uncertainty.

The Senate has agreed to deal with the Bill over the next fortnight.

'The Government is proposing to validate all the "pertaining to employment" provisions but not the rest,’ Smith said.

Under the Government’s proposal employers and employees could reach separate agreements at common law, on matters that don’t pertain to the employment relationship.

However, under this approach, uncertainty would remain for some time as to which matters were valid and which were not, Smith said.

'Until each provision has been considered it will be unclear what enforceable is, we don't know what clauses are in or out.'

To clear up the problem, smith suggested an alternate approach. ‘Legislate to validate all the existing certified agreements that have been negotiated in good faith by employers and employees,’ he said.

'There is a respectable public policy position argument to give effect to the full agreements which were voluntarily agreed to by both parties.’

A Senate Committee met to discuss the Bill in Melbourne yesterday. It will report to the Parliament next Monday, 29 November.

'We want to ensure there is no delay in considering this legislation,' Smith said. 'One way or another validation will occur and the uncertainties will be addressed by Parliament.'

 
 

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