June 2003: the month in IR


June 2003: the month in IR

John Conde AO was appointed the new President of the Remuneration Tribunal for a five-year term. He was first appointed as a member of the Tribunal on 18 June, 1998.


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This month in IR: The Work and Family Test Case started in the AIRC; The Australian Chamber of Commerce rejected ACTU redundancy claims; Federal IR legislation swamped Parliament; The Workplace Relations Minister failed to overturn the Grocon decision and Qantas chief Geoff Dixon was not prepared to negotiate on job cuts.

Federal Legislation

Federally covered employees off work fighting bush fires or attending to other emergencies were now protected from dismissal and victimisation after the Emergency Services Bill made it through the Senate without amendments (20249).

Proposed Federal Age Discrimination laws that home in on employment, and other aspects of life, were introduced into Federal Parliament (20247).

Proposed transmission of business laws moved from the House of Representatives to the Senate where they may face modification (20244).

The Federal Workplace Relations Amendment Termination of Employment Bill remained in the Senate (20244).

Proposed new laws that give the AIRC the power to make employers and employees negotiate were introduced into Parliament by the ALP on June 16 (20215).

Federal legislation prohibiting union bargaining fee arrangements was now in force. The provisions commenced on 9 May, 2003 (IRLink 245/03).

The proposed requirement for the Human Rights and Equal Opportunities Commission to seek the Federal Attorney-General’s approval to intervene in court proceedings was rejected by a Senate inquiry tabled in Parliament (20209). But the House of Representatives passed the Bill without amendments (20254).

Federal Court

The Federal Court held that an invention created by a sales manager remained the property of the sales manager and did not become the property of his employer, as the invention was made outside the course of his duties as an employee (IRLink 265/03).

High Court of Australia

The High Court ruled that the children of an employee who died in a work accident can recover damages for psychiatric injury arising from the death (IRLink 268/03).

Australian Industrial Relations Commission

New leave arrangements and part-time work headline the Australian Council of Trade Unions Work and Family Test Case lodged in the AIRC (20238).

Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry put arguments rejecting ACTU Redundancy Test Case claims in the AIRC (20237).

The Full Bench of the AIRC found that Federal Workplace Relations Minister Tony Abbott’s attempt to intervene in an earlier decision by the AIRC not to certify a non-union agreement at Grocon was not in the public interest (20235).

The AIRC found it had no jurisdiction to consider the suspension of a university professor for alleged sexual harassment, as the events lacked the necessary attributes of industrial action under the Federal legislation and so the Commission did not intervene (IRLink 279/03).

The AIRC refused to certify an agreement that would have resulted in a material decrease in wages for casual workers (IRLink 278/03).

A Full Bench of the AIRC ruled that employees may terminate expired AWAs and it was not a question of public interest to interfere even when a reduced wage was likely to result (IRLink 276/03).

The AIRC found it did not have jurisdiction to declare whether a previous Agreement was binding upon the employer at the termination of an AWA (IR Link 270/03). 

The AIRC ruled that Radio Rentals’ decision to incorporate new duties into the role of Credit Acceptance Clerks and change roster arrangements, in order to implement their business strategy, was within the scope of the Certified Enterprise Agreement, and did not give rise to a redundancy situation (IRLink 255/03).

The AIRC found that an employer who selected workers for redundancy on the basis of their knowledge, skills and attributes was fair in the circumstances. The AIRC consequently rejected unfair dismissal applications by two former employees (IRLink 251/03).

An industrial officer was unable to proceed with his unfair dismissal claim after the AIRC found he was not employed pursuant to an award, and his remuneration was in excess of the jurisdictional limit at the time (IRLink 244/03).

Employment Advocate

The Federal Office of the Employment Advocate alleged that a Northern NSW abattoir breached the freedom of association provisions of the Federal Workplace Relations Act (20207).

New South Wales

The Industrial Relations Amendment Adoption Leave Bill 2003 which extends the adoption leave rights for the adoption of children up to age 18 is waiting for its second reading speech in the Legislative Council (20244).

A majority of the NSW Court of Appeal expressed doubts about the constitutional validity of legislation which states NSW Industrial Relations Commission (IRC) decisions are not subject to appeal beyond an appellate bench of the Commission itself (IRLink 26).

The NSW Administrative Decisions Tribunal found that an employer went beyond managing work performance when it put unnecessary and unfair pressure on an employee in response to his sick leave record (IRLink 25).

A Full Bench of the NSW IRC found that an agreement preserved the right of certain workers to be paid under award provisions in relation to certain shiftwork (IRLink 254/03).


The Qld IRC refused to hear an unfair dismissal application by a casual labour hire employee who had worked continuously on the same job for more than a year (IRLink 271/03).

The Qld IRC found that an injured employee who was made redundant ten days after receiving a letter detailing plans for her return to work was unfairly dismissed (IRLink 266/03).

South Australia

A labour hire firm lost an appeal after the South Australian Workers Compensation Tribunal found that the injured worker supplied by the company was an employee. The worker was therefore able to claim workers compensation (IRLink 24).

The Full Bench of the South Australian IRC won’t approve the inclusion of bargaining agents’ fees in an SA security officers’ enterprise agreement until freedom of association, discrimination and administration issues are clarified (20228).

Chris White, Vice-President of the SA Industrial Relations Society, questioned what had happened in the seven months since the Stevens Report was made public. There were pressing industrial and social issues in today’s precarious labour market to address, he said (20219).

Western Australia

Western Australia workers received a pay rise when the WA IRC agreed to the Australian Council of Trade Union’s application to flow on the federal safety net wage increase (20222).

Understanding awards and agreements

Over the past decade, employers had pushed to wind back or buy-back RDOs. Now there was some revived interest as the pressure for more worker-friendly workplaces increased (20231).

Future of work

Lack of loyalty, impersonal relationships and feeling dispensable were consuming employees in the wake of restructuring and deregulation (20227).

The decision to cut labour costs was not up for negotiation in the high capital, low profit margin aviation industry, said Chief Executive of Qantas Airways, Geoff Dixon (20224).

According to 'The Future of Work (source material on) Trends and Challenges in Australian Workplaces': ‘Downsizing, outsourcing, privatisation, and the growth of short-term, part-time and casual employment have led to job churning and under-employment where many people are cycled through phases of insecure, short-term employment, under-employment and unemployment’ (20221).

Federal Government Challenge

The Commonwealth Government asked the High Court to overturn the Commonwealth Public Sector Union redundancy decision that increased entitlements (20220).

Australian Bureau of Statistics

State and Territory public sector pays grew 6% over the past 12 months despite a last quarter dip (20246).

Women outnumbered men in leisure jobs, while men outnumbered women in sport and physical recreation occupations (20245).

Managerial policy triggered most industrial disputes (20233).

Bargaining disputes

Workers rejected the Electrolux enterprise s170LJ agreement under the Federal Workplace Relations Act by five votes, in a secret ballot conducted by the company (20242).

Employers' prerogative to direct versus the extent to how far workers could exert their individual and collective rights came into sharp focus during the Morris McMahon dispute (20210).


Construction Forestry Mining and Energy Union NSW Safety Co-ordinator Brian Miller died from cancer. Brian Miller was an official of the CFMEU for over 30 years.

John Conde AO was appointed the new President of the Remuneration Tribunal for a five-year term. He was first appointed as a member of the Tribunal on 18 June, 1998.



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