Victorian ir taskforce recommendations

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Victorian ir taskforce recommendations

The Victorian Government is considering Recommendations of the Industrial Relations Taskforce.

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The Victorian Government is considering Recommendations of the Industrial Relations Taskforce. The Recommendations provide for new legislative and administrative initiatives that remedy perceived deficiencies or inadequacies in Victorian industrial relations.

On 12 April 2000, the newly elected Bracks Victorian Government announced the creation of an Industrial Relations Taskforce to conduct an independent inquiry into Victorian industrial relations. Having received 201 written submissions and conducted a series of community consultative meetings, the Taskforce submitted its Report and Recommendations to the Victorian Minister for Industrial Relations, the Honourable Monica Gould MP, on 31 August 2000.

In late 1996 the Victorian Kennett Government referred its industrial relations powers to the Commonwealth. This left Victorian workplaces with a dual federal industrial relations system. The first was federal coverage by virtue of a federal award, agreement or an Australian Workplace Agreement. The second system covered the remaining Victorian workplaces through the operation of Schedule 1A of the Workplace Relations Act 1996.

Fair Employment Standards
 
Schedule 1A is a schedule of minimum terms and conditions. These terms are limited to annual leave, sick leave, unpaid parental leave, notice provisions and a minimum hourly rate for the first thirty-eight hours of work.

The Taskforce found that some 356,000 employees (that being approximately 21 per cent of the Victorian labour force) relied exclusively upon Sch 1A of the federalActfor their conditions of employment. When compared to the terms and conditions applying under federal awards and agreements, Sch 1A employees receive fewer conditions and entitlements. For example, Sch 1A employees have no statutory right to conditions such as personal and carer's leave or bereavement leave. Furthermore, Sch 1A employees do not receive the same level of entitlements as federal award employees: minimum standards for annual leave and sick leave benefits are prescribed at lower levels in Sch 1A than in many federal awards and agreements.

To remedy this inequity, a majority of the Taskforce recommended the establishment of minimum employment standards for all Victorian employees. These conditions would include: annual leave, sick leave, long service leave, parental leave, carer's leave, bereavement leave, a general hours of work provision, and provisions for severance or redundancy payments.

In terms of the minimum wages and remuneration, a majority of the Taskforce was of the view that an industrial tribunal should be given powers to determine appropriate forms of remuneration for work undertaken in excess of thirty-eight hours in each week. Likewise, a majority of the Taskforce, recommended that this industrial tribunal also consider other forms of remuneration such as penalty rates and allowances.

Compliance and Education

The Taskforce formed the view that the successful administration of industrial and employment law is largely dependent upon a well-resourced inspectorate. A comparison with other states revealed as inadequate the current level of resources and services provided by the Commonwealth for Victorian workplaces.

To address compliance and education concerns, a majority of the Taskforce recommended the establishment of an education and advisory service. A tripartite advisory group made up of representatives of employers, employees and the community would oversee such a service.

Distinct from the envisaged education and advisory service, a majority of the Taskforce recommended the creation of an inspectorate, where inspectors would have the power to enter and inspect employment records, documents, interview employers and employees and initiate prosecutions on behalf of employees. Likewise, the majority of the Taskforce recommended that industrial organisations should have a right of access to workplaces not covered under federal awards and agreements.

Independent Contractors

The Taskforce found that last decade there has been a significant growth in non-standard forms of employment. This has principally occurred through the contracting out of existing work to employment agencies and labour hire companies. To reflect this growth in non-standard employment, a majority of the Taskforce was of the view that the definition of employee in Victoria ought to be more clearly defined. In this regard, the majority of the Taskforce recommended a broad definition of employee including people working under a contract of labour, or a person who is a lessee of tools or other implements or production, or of a vehicle used to transport goods or passengers. The majority of the Taskforce also believed that there should be a low cost and accessible unfair contracts jurisdiction available for people engaged as independent contractors in Victoria.

Termination laws

A majority of the Taskforce agreed that at the present time there is no need for Victoria to re-establish a state unfair termination jurisdiction.

Victorian Regulation

Finally the Taskforce considered the structure, functions and powers of an industrial tribunal required to administer a Victorian industrial relations system that is necessary because some of the recommendations of the Taskforce cannot be accommodated in federal law. A majority of the Taskforce, envisaged regulation through the establishment of a Victorian Fair Employment model, wherein the centrepiece of the model would be a fair employment statute. It was recommended that Victoria enact a Fair Employment statute, which would specify and review terms and conditions of employment for all Victorian employees to the extent that theses matters are not covered by federal awards or agreements.

A Tribunal referred to as the Fair Employment Tribunal would be established to administer industrial regulation under the Fair Employment Act. The Tribunal would possess the power:

  • to declare a term or condition of employment to be of general application for all Victorian employees not covered by a federal award or agreement;

  • to provide an education and advisory service for employers, employees and the community. This service would be distinct from the enforcement functions undertaken by inspectors;

  • to settle small claims relating to wages and allowances

  • to mediate, conciliate and arbitrate employee grievances over the application of terms and conditions of employment to individual employees.

 
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