Fair Work Act Review: recommendations released

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Fair Work Act Review: recommendations released

In a document covering almost 300 pages, the Fair Work Act Review panel has made 53 recommendations for changes to the Fair Work legislation. Many of the changes are technical in nature, but some will have real impact on how the system operates.

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In a document covering almost 300 pages, the Fair Work Act Review panel has made 53 recommendations for changes to the Fair Work legislation. Many of the changes are technical in nature, but some will have real impact on how the system operates.
 
The next critical phase is the Federal Government’s reaction to these recommendations.
 
Executive summary and table of recommendations  
 
The recommendations are detailed and refer to specific sections of the legislation. Consequently, an approach to appreciating the extent and content of the recommendations is to see the table on pages 21 to 27 of the full report.
 
Some extracts
 
The panel noted:
‘Over four months of investigation the Panel has been guided by some key principles ...
 
One of these was that economic issues must rank high in our assessment of the operation of the FW Act, since the objects in s. 3 and the Government’s announced intentions in the legislation gave considerable weight to economic objectives.

… Another principle was that the Panel should not limit itself to evaluating the FW Act only through the lens of the legislation that had immediately preceded it.

… A third principle guiding the Panel’s work was the recognition that the interpretation of provisions in industrial relations legislation are often contested.

…Finally, in evaluating submissions the Panel was disinclined to recommend changes that would advantage one party over another but not contribute to improving national prosperity, productivity or equity overall.’
Productivity
 
The panel commented:
‘The Panel is not persuaded that the legislative framework for industrial relations accounts for … productivity slowdown. It recognises, however, that productivity growth underpins rising living standards. Accordingly, the Panel has looked for ways to minimise constraints on flexibility in the FW Act that were not intended or that impede productivity enhancement and could be removed without significant harm to other objects of the legislation …’
Workplace equity
 
Among recommendations that are intended to increase workplace equity or remove current inequities, the Panel recommended:
‘… the FW Act be amended to prohibit enterprise agreement clauses that permit employees to opt out of the agreement, and to prohibit the making of an enterprise agreement with one employee … [together with an number of other measures set out in the report]’
Reversing some case law
 
Among the more controversial recommendations is to amend the Fair Work Act to reverse the Federal Court’s JJ Richards decision on industrial action.
 
Also the panel recommended the reversal of the Barclay v Bendigo TAFE ruling.
 
Rejected
 
The panel stated:
‘After careful consideration the Panel rejected some submissions as diminishing fairness or otherwise being contrary to the objects of the FW Act, or as unreasonably favouring one party over another.

The Panel’s reasoning is explained in the appropriate chapters. In particular the Panel did not accept that:
  • The FW Act should be amended to permit easier access to arbitration in the case of long running disputes, or where employees lack industrial strength.
  • Nor did it accept that the FW Act should be amended to further permit FWA to terminate prolonged industrial action …’
More detail on report soon

WorkplaceInfo will be reporting in more detail on the contents of the report.
 
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