Awards and agreements news, 21/08/09


Awards and agreements news, 21/08/09

Award modernisation — Minister on special cases; Award penalises retailers, says ARA; FWA refuses union ‘majority support’ application; AIRC to publish drafts of catering and seagoing awards.


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Award modernisation — Minister on special cases; Award penalises retailers, says ARA; FWA refuses union ‘majority support’ application; AIRC to publish drafts of catering and seagoing awards.
Award modernisation — Minister on special cases
Julia Gillard, Workplace Relations Minister, has noted in Parliament that she is continuing to consider ‘special case’ applications from industries adversely affected by the introduction of modern awards:
‘The Australian Industrial Relations Commission is well into this two-year task and it is on a journey to reduce 2400 outmoded state and federal awards and industrial instruments into 130 simple, modern awards — 2400 complex, overlapping documents into 130 modern awards …
… As this award modernisation process has gone on there have been times when employers, and indeed unions, have raised with me concerns about the award modernisation process. I have said consistently to all groups, "This is a job for the Australian Industrial Relations Commission, which overwhelmingly is doing it well." But if I become persuaded that an individual example raises legitimate concerns about the public interest and legitimate concerns about the implications of my award modernisation request and the framework of that request then I will consider those requests and respond to them if necessary. I did that in the restaurant and hospitality sector.
The shadow minister has woken up this morning and read the Australian newspaper and has obviously seen that we have been in dialogue with the horticultural industry. We will continue dialogue with industries as necessary …’
Peak retail industry body the Australian Retailers Association (ARA) congratulated Minister Gillard on her special consideration of the horticulture industry during the award modernisation process and called for the same rationale to be applied to retailers who keep their doors open on weekends to meet consumer demand.
ARA executive director Russell Zimmerman said, after giving special treatment to hospitality employers, Minister Gillard is now ready to do the same for the horticulture industry but small retailers will be lumped with increased wage bills of up to 16.5 per cent due to the new award’s archaic penalty rate structure:
'It’s hopeful to see some signs of flexibility during the award modernisation process but so far calls from small retailers have been ignored.
To reflect modern consumers’ demands on retailers, a truly modern retail award must include a penalty rate structure based on the sixth and seventh day of work and not penalise retailers for being open on weekends.
The assumption inherent in the "modern" retail award is that retailers are mass employers. The reality is small business is the engine room of the modern economy and smaller retailers simply cannot afford another blow in this tightening economic climate.
Any increased wage bills will simply be unsustainable for smaller retailers who will shed staff to cope with the new laws.' 
FWA refuses union ‘majority support’ application
Fair Work Australia has refused a union application for a ‘majority support determination’ covering Coca-Cola Amatil's employees in South Australia.
The employer had already initiated bargaining for new agreements and this was sufficient reason for the refusal.
The LHMU, in conjunction with AWMU and CEPU, had collected the signatures of a majority of the workers on a petition calling for the company to participate in bargaining, which it then used to support its case for the determination. However, two weeks after the union lodged the application — and before the FWA hearing — the company issued employees with notices of employee representation and sent a letter to the LHMU proposing dates for two meetings in August.
The notices indicated the employer proposed to seek three agreements covering production, warehouse and maintenance employees, rather than the single deal sought by the union and that it also planned to exclude some categories of employee from collective arrangements.
Senior Deputy President O'Callaghan found that while it was clear a majority of workers wanted to bargain, it did not appear that the company had refused to do so.
The FWA noted that the role of a majority support determination is to facilitate the commencement of the negotiation process and provide a precursor for other, enforceable provisions (such as scope orders) should they be necessary.
The FWA said that the finding that Coca-Cola had initiated bargaining precluded making the determination and that the parties could apply for a scope order if they continued to disagree on the scope of the agreement.
AIRC to publish drafts of catering and seagoing awards  
Following directions to the AIRC to amend the content of the restaurant & catering and seagoing industry awards from the Workplace Relations Minister, the Commission has announced it will publish drafts of the two instruments by 25 September.
After the drafts are released, the AIRC will deal with the two awards under the timetable applying to Stage 4 awards.
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