Scrap four yearly reviews, urges Senate committee

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Scrap four yearly reviews, urges Senate committee

Reform of the Fair Work system was given a boost yesterday when the Senate Committee into the “Repeal of the 4-Yearly Review and Other Measures Bill” unanimously recommended that the bill be passed.

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Reform of the Fair Work system was given a boost yesterday when the Senate committee into the “Repeal of the 4-Yearly Review and Other Measures Bill” unanimously recommended the bill be passed. 

The 4-Yearly bill was introduced by Peter Dutton, the Minister for Immigration & Border Protection. If enacted, it will scrap four-yearly reviews of modern awards and enable the Fair Work Commission to overlook minor procedural and technical errors when approving an enterprise agreement. 

Scrapping the review


The Productivity Commission's review of the workplace relations framework concluded the four-yearly review process should be scrapped on the grounds of diminishing returns and high costs for stakeholders.

There was also general consensus among the submitters (academics, unions, and employer groups) to the Senate Committee that the four-year review process was too big a burden.

However, some unions expressed objections to scrapping the process on the grounds that pay and conditions in modern awards would not keep pace with community expectations.

A staple too far in enterprise bargaining


The Peabody Moorvale v CFMEU case revealed a need to give the FWC an “overlooking” power. In that case, a proposed bargaining agreement was rejected by the FWC because three documents had been stapled together. This was contrary to various rules about the form of notice that had to be given to employees and, as the FWC had no real discretion in the matter, it had to reject the agreement. 

The FWC, in its submission, also revealed that between late April and early May this year that 31% of applications for approval contained non-compliant Notice of Employee Representation Rights documentation.

The commission received 5529 applications in 2015-16, “meaning that the overall number of applications with non-compliant NERRs has the potential to be very high,” the Senate committee commented.

Other matters


The Senate committee also endorsed as a “common-sense” approach that a variety of measures be adopted for complaint-handling and the investigation, regulation and removal of errant members of the commission. 

Recommendations


The government majority Senate committee went on to recommend that the Senate pass the bill; ALP Senators offered “in-principle support” for improvements to enterprise bargaining but with “reservations about some aspects of the reforms". 

See also: "Push to scrap four-yearly award reviews"
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