Senate committee backs Fair Work changes

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Senate committee backs Fair Work changes

The Education and Employment Legislation Committee has recommended the Senate pass the Fair Work Amendment Bill 2014.

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The Education and Employment Legislation Committee has recommended the Senate pass the Fair Work Amendment Bill 2014.
 
The Committee tabled its report into the government’s proposed changes yesterday, including separate dissenting reports from Labor and the Greens.
 
In summary, the bill provides for:
  • Introducing good faith bargaining arrangements and time limits for greenfield agreements;
  • Amendments to union right of entry laws;
  • Expansion of the application of Individual Flexibility Agreements (IFAs);
  • Reinstatement of the position that annual leave loading is only payable on termination if expressly provided for in the relevant industrial instrument;
  • Transfer of existing employment conditions for voluntary transfers between businesses in the same group without requiring a FWC order; and
  • Legislating that a meeting must take place between the employer and employee to discuss a request for extended unpaid parental leave before it can be refused.
See related story for more details of the bill.

The dissenting report from Labor members (Senators Sue Lines (deputy chair) and Mehmet Tillem) included concerns over amendments to Individual Flexibility Arrangements, in particular the lack of definition of “relative insignificance” and “proportion” in the bill.
 
These relate to the Expert Panel recommendation that the value of a non-monetary benefit being traded for a monetary benefit must be “relatively insignificant” and the value of the non-monetary benefit is “proportionate”.
 
The Greens’ (Senator Lee Rhiannon, replaced by Senator Penny Wright) dissenting report opposes IFAs, which they say “allow an employer and employee to depart from legally defined minimum conditions, provided that an employee is purportedly not overall worse off. However, these agreements don’t have to be pre-approved by the industrial umpire: compliance is only ever determined if an employee has the resources to sue their employer.”
 
The ALP also considers the proposed changes to greenfield agreements are “heavily skewed” in favour of employers and “essentially pave the way for employers to make agreements with themselves”.
 
The Greens also oppose these changes, asserting employers “…can propose a substandard agreement and, if three months later no bargain has been struck with the union, … can seek that the Fair Work Commission ratifies that agreement”.
 
The bill was debated in Parliament this week, but then adjourned.
 
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