‘Forced arbitration’ changes to FWA dropped


‘Forced arbitration’ changes to FWA dropped

Plans to allow for the arbitration of intractable disputes and protracted enterprise bargaining have been temporarily abandoned by the Federal Government.


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Plans to allow for the arbitration of intractable disputes and protracted enterprise bargaining have been temporarily abandoned by the Federal Government.

The clauses were not included in the latest round of changes to the Fair Work Act 2009 introduced into Parliament yesterday by IR Minister Bill Shorten, who said there would be further consultation on the matter.

Employers are also objecting to a late inclusion of a clause that states modern awards must provide for additional remuneration for overtime, shifts, weekend work, public holidays and irregular hours.

They claim this could affect the ability for these payments to be traded off for annualised salaries.


Business organisations are also expressing anger at other provisions in the legislation, including right of entry and enforced consultation on roster changes.
The Business Council of Australia (BCA) wants the legislation blocked in Parliament, and the Ai Group said it should be referred to a parliamentary Committee.

Shorten told Parliament the changes to the Fair Work Act include:
  • extending the scope of the right to request flexible working arrangements to include carers, workers with disability, mature-aged workers, and workers experiencing domestic violence
  • requirements for employers to genuinely consult with employees about changes to rosters and working hours, including the impact on their family life
  • improving entitlements for workers who are pregnant, including changes to special maternity leave and the right to transfer to a safe job
  • extending the time parents can take unpaid parental leave together from three weeks to eight weeks, and providing greater flexibility in when the leave can be taken
  • an express right to request a return-to-work on a part-time basis after taking unpaid parental leave.
‘Stand up for jobs’: BCA

BCA president Tony Shepherd said MPs must ‘stand up for jobs and the national interest’ and prevent the passage of the legislation.

‘While the government has listened to united concerns from business and not proceeded at this time with clauses relating to arbitration, this does not make today’s package of proposed amendments any less damaging to the ability of small, medium and large businesses to stay competitive in a tough global economy,’ Shepherd said.

‘The proposed amendments will put further stress on businesses struggling to adjust to competitiveness pressures, and will do nothing to support jobs, investment and productivity.’

Not right balance: Ai Group

Ai Group chief executive Innes Willox said the legislation ‘fails to strike the right balance in achieving fairness for employees and employers, and ensuring a flexible and productive workplace relations system’.
‘The Bill includes a number of problematic provisions which should be scrutinised through a parliamentary committee inquiry before the Bill is considered by either House of Parliament,’ Willox said.

‘As it stands, the Bill has several significant problems. It expands the entitlements of employees and unions in numerous areas including: union right of entry, bullying claims, award penalty rates, the right to request flexible work arrangements, parental leave, hours of work and rosters.’

‘The absence of provisions to address the sensible changes which industry has been pressing for is glaring.’

‘The Bill does not address many worthwhile recommendations of the Fair Work Act Review Panel on individual flexibility arrangements, transfer of business and the general protections; nor does the Bill address other important issues such as the need to narrow the range of issues which can be the subject of bargaining claims.’

‘Improves fairness’': ACTU

However ,the ACTU welcomed the legislation saying it will improve fairness in Australian workplaces.

ACTU secretary Dave Oliver said that the reforms would ensure workers could raise issues with union representatives in workplaces, have access to broader rights to request flexible work arrangements and protect workers from arbitrary rostering changes.

‘The fact that employers are trying to stop these changes shows they are completely removed from any sense of the fairness that Australian workers think should be part of every workplace,’ Oliver said.
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