WorkChoices commences - just another day says  Minister


WorkChoices commences - just another day says Minister

Despite the federal IR Minister describing the commencement of WorkChoices legislation as 'just like any other day of the week, any other day of the year', the start of the bulk of the legislation from today has brought into effect some profound IR changes in Australia.


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Despite the federal IR Minister describing the commencement of WorkChoices legislation as 'just like any other day of the week, any other day of the year', the start of the bulk of the legislation from today has brought into effect some profound IR changes in Australia. Meanwhile Prof Judith Sloan and a former trade unionist have been appointed to the AFPC.

All Australian constitutional corporations (trading corporations) are now part of the federal IR system. This means that businesses that may have operated outside an IR regulatory regime are now part of the Federal IR system - so previously award-free businesses are affected - see, for example previous article.

Unfair dismissals

One major and immediate impact of the new legislation is that corporations with fewer than 100 employees are no longer subject to unfair dismissal actions. In addition, employers with 100 plus employees will have a less stringent unfair dismissal regime to deal with. (See previous article)

Big questions unanswered

Despite the Minister's relaxed approach to the new legislation there are some important questions that have to be answered for employers and employees to understand how their employment is controlled and where exactly they fit into the new system.

These questions include:

  • Which employers are covered by WorkChoices? - although some are clearly covered, others like the states' public sector, statutory bodies and local councils are very unclear.
  • What award and agreement provisions currently existing continue to apply from today and henceforth? - again some provisions seem clear but the impact of prohibited content and non-allowable matters are unclear.
  • Do the new stringent anti-strike provisions apply from today to disputes in progress? - this could require secret ballots in relation to current disputes over enterprise agreements.
  • If an employer takes steps to form a new agreement under WorkChoices and the High Court declares some or all of the legislation invalid, what is the state of the new agreement?
  • If employers inadvertently breach the new legislation, will they be subject to fines?
  • If employers and employees choose to use the state industrial tribunals and state administration will the rulings and orders of State bodies be legally sound if challenged by the federal enforcement authorities?

High Court decision eagerly awaited

In one of the most important constitutional law cases in Australia's history the High Court will rule on the validity of WorkChoices legislation. The court starts hearing the case in May and the decision will probably be handed down in September /October this year.

Office of Employment Advocate ready to go

The Office of the Employment Advocate plays a central role in in processing AWAs. Its website has been updated to address its expanded role:
AIRC - fact sheets

AIRC website has published fact sheets on the new legislation.
WorkChoices legislation incorporated into Workplace Relations Act

The Workplace Relations Act has been renumbered to take account of the voluminous WorkChoices amending legislation. The legislation is now available in consolidated from here.

Prof Judith Sloan, union man appointed to AFPC

Conservative academic economist Prof Judith Sloan and former trade unionist Hugh Armstrong are two of four new appointments to the Australian Fair Pay Commission (AFPC).

The Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations, Kevin Andrews, today announced that they would be joined by Patrick McClure and Michael O’Hagan.

Background of appointees

Andrews said Armstrong has had a 28 year involvement with trade unions in Australia and has held senior positions in the Australian Government Worker’s Association, Federated Clerks Union and Australian Services Union. He is also a past president of the Industrial Relations Society of Australia.

McClure is the CEO of Mission Australia, one of the largest community organisations in Australia, and has held this position since 1997. He has represented community organisations in a range of national forums and in 2003 he was made an Officer of the Order of Australia in the Australia Day honours for his contribution to social welfare.

O’Hagan has over 20 years as a business owner and Managing Director of a furniture removal company MiniMovers. His company has been rewarded for its success and the training initiatives that it undertakes, and he draws on his business expertise in his role as a member of the Advisory Panel to Mr Ian Macfarlane, Governor of the Reserve Bank of Australia.

Prof Judith Sloan has been a part-time Commissioner of the Productivity Commission since 1998, as well as a Director of Santos Ltd, a major Australian oil and gas exploration and production company, since 1994. Professor Sloan has also held the position of Director of the National Institute of Labour Studies at Flinders University from 1992 to 1998 and has extensive tertiary qualifications in Economics.

The Commissioners will take up their appointment from today, 27 March 2006 and are appointed for 4 years.


No ‘fairness’ in the Fair Pay Commission

Federal IR changes 2005/2006


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