Gillard’s IR Bill faces delay in Senate Committee

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Gillard’s IR Bill faces delay in Senate Committee

IR Minister Julia Gillard introduced Labor’s new workplace relations legislation in Parliament today but it already faces three month’s delay at a Senate Committee, and nothing in the current laws will change in the meantime.

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IR Minister Julia Gillard introduced Labor’s new workplace relations legislation in Parliament today but it already faces three month’s delay at a Senate Committee, and nothing in the current laws will change in the meantime.

Gillard’s Bill will outlaw new AWAs, introduce an interim individual transitional employment agreement (ITEA) that is subject to a 'no-disadvantage test', and start the process of award modernisation.

However, Senator Eric Abetz, Deputy Leader of the Opposition in the Senate, moved yesterday that the Bill be referred to the Education, Employment and Workplace Relations Committee for inquiry and report by 28 April 2008.

The Committee will look at the Bill with particular reference to:

(a) economic and social impacts from the abolition of individual statutory agreements;
(b) impact on employment;
(c) potential for a wages breakout and increased inflationary pressures;
(d) potential for increased industrial disputation;
(e) impact on sectors heavily reliant on individual statutory agreements; and
(f)  impact on productivity.

The Coalition, led by Shadow IR spokeswoman Julie Bishop, is fighting for the retention of pre-WorkChoices AWAs that were subject to the ‘no-disadvantage test'. This test was dropped for the WorkChoices AWAs but public uproar saw a ‘fairness test’ imposed in May 2007.

AWAs have been popular in Bishop’s home state of Western Australia, particularly in the mining and resources sectors.

The Coalition retains control of the Senate until the new Senators elected at the November 2007 election are sworn-in in July. It can continue to block the legislation up to that date.

Federal system

Meanwhile, Federal system employers continue under the current Workplace Relations Act 1996 as it was yesterday:

  • Employers and employees can continue to make collective agreements and AWAs and lodge them with the Workplace Authority Director as before. Agreements altering 'protected award conditions' are subject to the 'fairness' test.
  • Unfair dismissal and unlawful dismissal provisions remain unchanged. Businesses employing no more than 100 employees are exempt from the unfair dismissal provisions.
  • The Australian Fair Pay and Conditions Standard applies and underpins collective agreements and AWAs, federal awards and NAPSAs. Pay rates remain unchanged (pay scales may increase in October following a review by the Australian Fair Pay Commission).
  • Federal act right of entry provisions apply unaltered.

State system

State-system employers (non-corporations) remain in the state system as before:

  • State awards and agreements (or transitional awards and pre-reform certified agreements) continue to apply as they did yesterday and the state enterprise bargaining provisions continue. Agreements must be lodged with the state Commission for approval.
  • State unfair dismissal and unfair contract provisions continue to apply. There is no exemption from the unfair dismissal provisions for businesses of any size. Federal unlawful termination provisions continue to apply.
  • State award rates and conditions remain unchanged. (Rates and allowances may start to increase from mid-July because of a state wage case.)
  • State right of entry provisions apply unaltered.


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