Fair Work Act Amendment Bill through House

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Fair Work Act Amendment Bill through House

Fair Work amending legislation passed through the House of Representatives last night.

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Fair Work amending legislation passed through the House of Representatives last night.

The Bill implements a number of recommendations of the independent Fair Work Act Review Panel (Review Panel), and other changes arising from consultation with stakeholders on the Review Panel’s report. These stakeholders included members of the National Workplace Relations Consultative Council, small business representatives, the Fair Work Ombudsman and Fair Work Australia.

Contents of Bill
 
The Bill also implements the Federal Government’s response to the Productivity Commission’s inquiry into default superannuation in modern awards, which was initiated by the government in January 2012.

The government’s media release stated that Bill includes:
  • improvements to the unfair dismissal provisions to improve the integrity of the application and hearing process
  • changes to the structure and operation of Fair Work Australia as recommended by the Review Panel
  • a more transparent and competitive process for the selection of default funds in modern awards
  • several technical and clarifying recommendations made by the Review Panel.
More changes coming
 
The government’s media release also stated that the Minister remains committed to working with employers, employees and their representatives on implementing the remaining Review Panel recommendations.

Opposition not happy
 
The Coalition attacked the speed of progress of the legislation noting there was less than 24 hours to consider the ramifications of the Bill.

The Coalition also pointed to the Fair Work Act review that proposed 53 reforms to the Act. The government has put forward 17 recommendations in this initial tranche.

Adding that these 17 reforms are ’not much more than tinkering at the edges’.

Miners not happy
 
Chief executive Steve Knott of the Australian Mines and Metals Association (AMMA) said that the Fair Work Act Amendment Bill 2012 has been touted by the government as the first round of legislative change brought on by the Fair Work Act Review Panel’s recommendations:
‘The reality is that these changes have not addressed any of the significant issues within the Fair Work framework that have led to serious challenges within Australian workplace, none more so than for the national resource industry.’
Knott continued:
‘The experiences of AMMA members across Australia’s wider resources sector demonstrate the wider impacts of the Fair Work framework are directly impacting the industry’s work practices and workforce development strategies. This is particularly concerning when Australia has more than $500 billion worth of resources projects either approved or proposed for our shores, estimated to create up to 90,000 new jobs by 2016.

The Australian Government has a responsibility to implement the policy framework that will ensure this project pipeline is sustained, thereby creating further Australian employment opportunities. The amendments introduced this week will have limited benefit in this regard and have further eroded the business community’s confidence in the Fair Work review process …

AMMA urges the government to move swiftly to address the real issues that to date have largely been ignored. These include: 
  • The significant power imbalance on greenfield (new project) agreement negotiations that has led to cost blow-outs and one-in-five new resources projects put at serious risk due to union stalling tactics; 
  • The ability for unions to take protected strike action in support of matters that have nothing to do with the efficient operation of an enterprise or the direct employment relationship, such as contractor restrictions or promotion of union membership; 
  • The limited methods available to employers to resist ongoing protected strike action, often taken in pursuit of uncommercial and exorbitant claims; 
  • The regular disruption of Australian workplace through unjustified union right of entry provisions, leading to commercial impacts, workplace disharmony and productivity losses; and 
  • The failure of the Fair Work Act to facilitate any flexible working arrangements where a worker and an employee can directly negotiate a suitable employment arrangement of mutual benefit.’

 

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