Busy AIRC will ‘attempt’ to fix problems in modern awards

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Busy AIRC will ‘attempt’ to fix problems in modern awards

The AIRC has said it is open to making changes to the modern Horticulture Award, but has only promised to ‘attempt’ and ‘endeavour’ to make changes to the awards covering call centres and changes to hours of work in the retail and pharmacy industries.

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The AIRC has said it is open to making changes to the modern Horticulture Award, but has only promised to ‘attempt’ and ‘endeavour’ to make changes to the awards covering call centres and changes to hours of work in the retail and pharmacy industries.
 
In its latest statement on the award modernisation process, the Commission points out that since the original request by IR Minister Julia Gillard on 28 March 2008 to make modern awards she has varied the request ‘on some seven occasions’.
 
Piece rates
 
In the most recent variation on 26 August 2009, Gillard had asked that the Commission should enable employers in the horticulture industry to continue to pay piece rates of pay to casual employees who pick produce, as opposed to a minimum rate of pay supplemented by an incentive-based payment.
 
She had also asked that where a modern award covers horticultural work, the Commission should:
  • have regard to the perishable nature of the produce grown by particular sectors of the horticulture industry when setting the hours of work provisions for employees who pick and pack this produce
  • provide for roster arrangements and working hours that are sufficiently flexible to accommodate seasonal demands and restrictions caused by weather as to when work can be performed.
 
The AIRC said employer representatives had argued that the operation of the Horticulture Award should be delayed for two years because of the cost of implementing the award, particularly the provisions relating to piecework, casual loading, span of ordinary hours, overtime and penalty rates.
 
Two-year delay ‘not appropriate’
 
The AIRC has ruled that it would not be appropriate to simply postpone the operation of the provisions for two years.
 
‘The appropriate course is for one or more of the employer groups to lodge an application to vary the modern award,’ the Commission said.
 
‘If that is done we will establish a program to determine the application before the end of the year.’
 
‘Assuming that an application is made to vary the Horticulture Award 2010, interested parties will have an opportunity to make comments on the 26 August variation of the consolidated request before any change is made to the award.’
 
However, the AIRC is not as confident of quickly resolving problems relating to call centres and part-time work in the retail, pharmacy and similar industries.
 
Regarding call centres, Gillard had requested:
‘Where a modern award applies to employees primarily performing the work of receiving calls, using call centre technology and entering and retrieving data, the Commission should establish working hours and penalty rates arrangements that are substantially based upon those that presently apply to those employees within the industry in which they work.’
The AIRC said that as a result of this variation to the consolidated request one or more of the modern awards may require variation.
 
‘Attempt to give consideration’
 
‘Any interested party may file an application to vary and we will attempt to give consideration to it before the end of 2009,’ the Commission said.
 
Gillard had also asked the Commission to:
‘... ensure that the hours of work and associated overtime penalty arrangements in the retail, pharmacy and any similar industries the Commission views as relevant do not operate to discourage employers from:
  • offering additional hours of work to part-time employees
  • employing part-time employees rather than casual employees.’
‘In its decision of 19 December 2008 the Commission made the General Retail Industry Award 2010 and the Pharmacy Industry Award 2010,’ the Commission said.
 
‘Endeavour to deal’
 
‘Any interested party which is of the view that either of those awards, or any other award, should be varied to give effect to the 26 August variation should make an appropriate application. We will endeavour to deal with any such application before the end of 2009.’
 
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