Legislation news briefs...Transmission of business back in business

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Legislation news briefs...Transmission of business back in business

Transmission of business back in business; New sacking Bill in the Senate; Choosing award coverage; and Simplifying agreement making.

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Transmission of business back in business; New sacking Bill in the Senate; Choosing award coverage; and Simplifying agreement making.

Transmission of business back in business

The Federal Government has agreed to Democrat amendments that should see the Federal Workplace Relations Transmission of Business Bill 2002 become law.

The amendments limit the circumstances in which the AIRC can prevent a certified agreement that binds an outgoing employer of a business from being transferred to the new employer of a business.

The AIRC won’t be able to stop a new employer being bound by the existing certified agreement, unless the new employer and other parties agree to forgo the existing agreement.

In situations where the majority of employees want to remain under the existing certified agreement, but the new employer does not, the AIRC can still prevent the new employer being bound.

But the AIRC will have to be satisfied that:

  • any variation to employees’ circumstances does not disadvantage the employees; or
  • the variation is part of a reasonable strategy to manage a short-term crisis and to assist in the revival of the business.

A variation is deemed to disadvantage employees if it reduces the overall terms and conditions under the existing certified agreement.

The senate will vote on the amended Bill in March 2004.

A spokesperson for Workplace Relations Minister Craig Emerson told WorkplaceInfo the ALP would vote against the Bill.

But regardless of what the ALP do, if the Democrats and the Government vote together the Bill will pass.

The ALP wanted more far reaching amendments than those put forward by the Democrats (see previous story).

Also see: Transmission of business appeals to go ahead

New sacking Bill in the Senate

The Federal Workplace Relations Termination of Employment Bill marktwo has reached the Senate.

The Bill seeks to expand the coverage of the Federal unfair dismissal laws to 85% of the national workforce, change unfair dismissal laws relating to small business, and change the way the AIRC manages unfair dismissal claims.  

In relation to small business, the qualifying period for making a claim will be extended from three to six months, and applications that are considered beyond jurisdiction and lack substance will be dismissed without a hearing.

The ALP doesn’t like the latest version of the Bill. The Federal Shadow Workplace Relations Minister, Craig Emerson, said in Parliament last week that the new Bill was no different to the Bill that got voted down last year.

A spokesperson for Shadow Minister told WorkplaceInfo the ALP will vote against the second termination Bill in the Senate.

The spokesperson said the Government had failed to consult with the States on extending the federal unfair dismissal jurisdiction into State territory.

Also, the ALP was opposed to removing unfair dismissal protections from some parts of the workforce.  

Considering the ALP’s outright opposition, it appears it will be left up to the Democrats to determine if the Bill gets through Parliament.

Last year the Democrats attempted unsuccessfully to deal with Government regarding version one of the Bill and so joined the ALP in voting down the Bill.

The Democrats wanted a probationary period for casuals to be set at six months and to clarify the definition of employee so 'genuine' employees had access to unfair dismissal laws.

However, the Democrats were willing to support sections of the Bill that sought to expand the Federal jurisdiction dealing with harsh, unjust or unreasonable dismissals so it covered all employees of constitutional corporations.

If the Bill gets voted down a second time in the Senate it will become a double dissolution trigger.

The Democrats have not responded to WorkplaceInfo’s request for a comment.

See previous stories: Reintroduction of Federal sacking Bill a possibility; Federal sacking bill up for debate today.

Choosing award coverage

The Workplace Relations Amendment (Choice in Award Coverage) Bill 2002 has moved up into the Senate.

Under the Bill, small businesses with fewer than 20 employees and no union members cannot be bound by a federal award.

In relation to small business with union members, the AIRC will be made to consider the ramifications of making a small business bound by an award.

A spokesperson for the federal Shadow Minister, Craig Emerson, told WorkplaceInfo the ALP opposed the Bill because it was against removing award access from workers employed in small business. All workers should have the same access to award protections, the spokesperson added.

For detail on the Bill go to the Parliament of Australia website.

Simplifying agreement making

The Workplace Relations Amendment (Simplifying Agreement Making) Bill 2002 has moved up into the Senate.

Under the Bill, Australian Workplace Agreements (AWAs) can commence once they are signed and before they are approved by the Office of the Employment Advocate (OEA). However, a cooling-off period is provided.

The OEA will recover any shortfalls in pay on behalf of employees if AWAs is revoked or stops operating.

A spokesperson for the Federal Shadow Minister, Craig Emerson, told WorkplaceInfo it didn’t make sense for AWAs to operate in such a fashion. They should be approved before they become operational to make sure they are fair, the spokesperson added.

Another feature of the Bill is the extension of certified agreements to five years.

The Federal Workplace Relations Minister Kevin Andrews said the extension of agreements would benefit businesses or projects that required longer term certainty in relation to workplace relations. 

However, the ALP is concerned that the Bill is more about excluding unions from agreement making.

Craig Emerson's spokesperson said that under the Bill unions bound by the original agreement can be locked out of extension negotiations.

However, in Parliament last week, the Federal Workplace Relations Minister, Kevin Andrews, said the amendments do not affect union agreements made under s170LJ and s170LL of the Workplace Relations Act. They apply to s170LK agreements.

‘Under the Act, a union can elect to be bound by an agreement that has already been made directly between an employer and employees - that is, after the event - even though the union may have played no part whatsoever in the negotiations,’ he said.

‘Once a union elects to be bound it can effectively prevent the variation, extension or termination of the agreement even if this change has majority employee support.

‘The Bill proposes to remove the right of unions to prevent any proposed extension, variation or termination of an employer-employee agreement.

‘However, these amendments will not reduce safeguards for employees under non-union agreements. Union members will be able to request that their union represent their interests by the union making a submission to the Commission. The Commission will then decide whether or not to approve any such variation, extension or termination.’

For detail on the Bill go to the Parliament of Australia website.

 

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