Changes proposed to federal act

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Changes proposed to federal act

The Federal Industrial Relations Commission will be expressly forbidden from inserting into federal agreements preference clauses which breach the ‘Freedom of Association’ provisions of the Federal Workplace Relations Act 1996 under amendments planned for the Spring Session of Parliament.

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The Federal Industrial Relations Commission will be expressly forbidden from inserting into federal agreements preference clauses which breach the ‘Freedom of Association’ provisions of the Federal Workplace Relations Act 1996under amendments planned for the Spring Session of Parliament.

The Federal Government has announced that it will introduce a series of ‘technical amendments’ ‘to improve the effective implementation of the policy intentions of the Workplace Relations Act’.

The proposed amendments were the subject of discussions over the weekend between the Minister for Industrial Relations, Mr Peter Reith, and representatives from the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry and the ACTU. A number of the amendments were agreed to by the ACTU as being technical and not to be opposed.

On the other hand, the ACTU, reflecting its general attitude to Australian Workplace Agreements (AWAs), strongly disagreed with a number of the amendments which they believe will have the effect of increasing the powers of the Employment Advocate.

Proposed amendments to the AWA and Employment Advocate provisions of the Actinclude:

  • permitting the Employment Advocate (re AWAs) and the Federal Commission (re Certified Agreements) to designate a State award for the purposes of the ‘no-disadvantage test’ (presently, parties which seek to make agreements which include non-Award workers, have to apply to the Employment Advocate or Commission, as the case may be, to designate a federal award against which the agreement can be measured for the purposes of determining whether it meets the ‘no-disadvantage test’ in the case of non-Award employees);
  • the right of entry powers of the Employment Advocate will make explicit the Employment Advocate’s right to enter a workplace for the purposes of investigating an alleged ‘Freedom of Association’ breach;
  • extending the time limit allowed for filing AWAs from 14 to 21 days; and,
  • allowing the Employment Advocate to waive technical filing requirements for AWAs where the waiver would not disadvantage a party to the AWA.

Other proposed changes of interest include:

  • compensation awardable following an unfair dismissal matter to be calculated by reference to the amount of remuneration to which the employee was entitled rather than the amount the employee actually received;
  • the 14 day period which must be provided to employees within which to consider a proposed certified agreement is not to be affected by the employment of new staff within this 14 day period;
  • the provision in the Actwhich states that the federal unfair dismissal laws are not to be taken to exclude employee access to State unfair dismissal laws (ie s152(1A)) only relates to State laws which deal with claims of ‘harsh, unjust or unreasonable’ dismissal, not other remedies such as discrimination claims etc.
 
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