IR legislation wrap - 20 November 2002


IR legislation wrap - 20 November 2002

Federal genuine bargaining and contingency fees for IR advocates in NSW are the principal topics of IR legislation currently in progress.


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Federal genuine bargaining and contingency fees for IR advocates in NSW are the principal topics of IR legislation currently in progress.

Genuine Bargaining Bill passes the senate

The Federal Government’s Workplace Relations Amendment (Genuine Bargaining) Bill 2002 passed through Parliament in an amended form on 19 November 2002.

The new laws will:

  • Help the Australian Industrial Relations Commission (AIRC) to suspend or terminate a bargaining period on the ground that the notifying party is not genuinely trying to reach agreement.
  • Allow parties to apply for suspension or termination of bargaining periods affecting an employer, without having to identify the specific bargaining periods involved.
  • Allow the commission to prevent the initiation of a new bargaining period, or to attach conditions to any new bargaining period, where a bargaining period has been withdrawn or suspended (in the same way that the commission can where a bargaining period has been terminated).

The Government argued that it was seeking, with its original Bill, to increase the powers of the AIRC to end strikes when a party was not genuinely bargaining.

NSW to outlaw IR advocates operating on a contingency fee basis

Industrial relations advocates who operate on a freelance basis in NSW will be more strictly controlled when an amendment to the principal industrial relations legislation comes into effect. The legislation does not apply to legal practitioners or representatives of industrial organisations (unions and employer associations).

The legislation is primarily aimed at agents who operate on a contingency basis in unfair dismissal actions - ie taking a percentage of any award or settlement.

The objects of this Bill to amend the Industrial Relations Act 1996 include:

  1. to prohibit certain fee agreements (ie contingency fees) that provide for costs or fees, or both, to be determined as a proportion of, or to vary according to, the amount recovered in proceedings, and
  2. to regulate the activities of industrial agents (that is, persons, other than legal practitioners or employees or officers of industrial organisations, who
    represent a party in proceedings before the Industrial Relations Commission
    for fee or other reward) by:
  1. prohibiting an industrial agent from representing a party in conciliation proceedings without the leave of the commission, and
  2. requiring an industrial agent to disclose his or her fee structure to a client and the commission before or at the commencement of proceedings.

The Bill passed through the lower house and was introduced into the upper house on 19 November 2002.

NOTE also …

The New South Wales Employment Agents Act 1996 and Employment Agents Regulation 2001 will be repealed and the Fair Trading Act 1987 amended to include provisions relating to employment agents. The main effect of these changes will be to end the compulsory licensing system for employment agents that exists under the Employment Agents Act. The Fair Trading Amendment (Employment Placement Services) Bill 2002 was introduced into Parliament on 3 September 2002. The legislation received assent on 7 November 2002 and will commence on proclamation.


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