Awards to be reviewed under WorkChoices legislation

Analysis

Awards to be reviewed under WorkChoices legislation

The proposed federal workplace relations legislation will not immediately change the scope and conditions currently prescribed by federal and state awards, however, a review of the award system and awards generally has been earmarked to be carried out by the Award Review Taskforce (ART).

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The proposed federal workplace relations legislation will not immediately change the scope and conditions currently prescribed by federal and state awards, however, a review of the award system and awards generally has been earmarked to be carried out by the Award Review Taskforce (ART).

This body will be given the task of recommending to the Federal Government an approach to rationalise awards, providing advice to the Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations, who will then task the Australian Industrial Relations Commission (AIRC) with the job of rationalising awards.

The Award Review Taskforce (ART)- composition and timing

The ART will be made up of a Chairman who is supported by a reference group comprising people with employee and employer backgrounds. The ART will be supported by a Secretariat located at the Department of Employment and Workplace Relations.

Strategy

The ART shall report to the Minister on its recommended strategy for the rationalisation of existing award wage and classification structures by the end of January 2006.

Initial rationalisation

Following a decision by Government on that methodology, the ART will commence an initial rationalisation of wage and classification structures. The ART will then finalise its initial rationalisation of wage and classification structures, including casual loadings and piece rates, by end July 2006 for consideration by the Fair Pay Commission prior to its first wage adjustment.

Once the ART has made an initial assessment of the workload and timeframes for the projects under its terms of reference (see below), it may raise with the Government any proposed amendments to the workload and timeframes including any reasons for variation.

Terms of reference - two projects

The Award Review Taskforce (ART) is expected to examine and report to the Government on two projects relevant to the proposed workplace relations legislation.

Rationalisation of award wage & classification structures: The ART will examine classification wage structures (including adult classification wages, minimum wages for juniors, trainees/apprentices and employees with disabilities, casual loadings and minimum wages for piece workers and outworkers) in all current federal awards, and state awards that are to be moved to the federal jurisdiction.

That wage structures examination will include but not be limited to consideration of the following matters:

  • provide a simplified classification and pay rates system to assist the Australian Fair Pay Commission to periodically adjust wages;
  • reduce the overlap across classification structures;
  • whether it may be feasible to group similar classifications and pay rates into broadbanded levels, whilst ensuring that award classification wages will not be reduced;
  • providing a framework that will give encourage employers and employees to implement arrangements at the workplace;
  • having regard to the principle of ensuring women and men receive equal pay for work of equal value; and
  • aligning or amalgamating federal and state classification wages.

Rationalisation of federal awards: The ART will examine current federal awards with a view to recommending an approach to rationalising those awards:

  • on an industry sector basis (eg. there are 19 declared minimum wages sectors for Victorian workers in the award-free areas of the workforce, where a common rule award does not apply);
  • to permit general coverage of employers and employees (and appropriate employer and employee organisations) according to relevant industry sector based awards; and
  • that addresses coverage of award free employees and employers who will be in the federal system at or after commencement of the new workplace relations system and who have not been able to reach individual or workplace agreement. In this regard, consideration will be given to the option of a 'general' or 'miscellaneous' award to cover these employers and employees.

That awards examination will include but not be limited to consideration of the following matters:

  • the extent to which awards can be amalgamated/combined to avoid overlapping of awards and to minimise the number of awards applying in relation to particular employers;
  • any customs or arrangements currently in state awards that should be reflected in rationalised federal awards;
  • the manner in which the 'preserved award entitlements' (ie. those matters to be frozen in awards) are to be provided for in the awards that result from the rationalisation process, eg. if a number of awards are to be rationalised to an industry sector based award, how the 'preserved award entitlements' from the rationalised awards are to be accommodated;
  • 'preserved award entitlements' currently contained in state awards are to be treated in the same way as proposed for federal awards;
  • whether some awards should be deleted;
  • how award rationalisation can best be coordinated with award simplification (reducing the number of matters covered within awards), eg. whether it may be preferable to reduce the number of awards before simplifying them, taking into account the Government's decision to preserve and freeze certain non-allowable matters;
  • transition of awards in excess of 38 ordinary hours per week, eg. Pastoral Industry Award 1998; and
  • the scope for subsequent rationalisation of awards beyond the industry sector level.

Related

Federal IR changes 2005

 

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