Junior rates compromise

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Junior rates compromise

A compromise has been reached over the federal Government's youth employment legislation.

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A compromise has been reached over the federal Government's youth employment legislation.

The federal government introduced its Workplace Relations Amendment (Youth Employment) Bill 1998 on 26 November 1998. Both the ALP and Democrats opposed the Bill which amended the Workplace Relations Act 1996to insert a permanent exemption for age based junior rates in federal awards and agreements from the Act's anti-discrimination provisions.

The Bill also amended the Actto include '...protecting the competitive position of young people in the labour market, promoting youth employment and assisting in reducing youth unemployment...' as an object and increased the AIRC's powers to include junior rates of pay in federal awards and agreements.

The Act currently exempts junior rates in awards or variations made before 22 June 2000 from unlawful discrimination based on age. After that date the Commission may make or vary awards containing junior rates on a case by case basis but the general exemption expires.

The AIRC's report into non-discriminatory alternatives to junior rates (initiated by the Democrats) did not find any satisfactory alternative, but the Democrats appeared unhappy with the prospect of allowing the general exemption to continue.Today the government introduced amendments to its Bill which will be supported by the ALP. The amendments:

  • slightly modify the new object to the Act; and
  • modify the AIRC's proposed 'junior rates' power so that it can only be exercised on a case by case basis, having regard to community standards and youth skills acquisition; and by placing an onus on an applicant seeking to add, vary or remove junior rates provisions from an award.
 
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