Qld IR bill restores collective bargaining for public sector


Qld IR bill restores collective bargaining for public sector

A new Queensland IR bill introduces paid leave for domestic violence sufferers, a “general protections jurisdiction” against adverse action during employment and remedies for workplace bullying.


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An 800-page new labour law bill has passed through the Queensland parliament. However, it largely only affects state and local government employees, of which there are about 252,000 (212,132 in the state public sector; 40,000 in the local government sector).

Public sector workers account for about 15% of the total workforce in Queensland.

Politically motivated

Queensland’s Industrial Relations Act 2016 was introduced to Parliament by Grace Grace, the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations.

It is a politically-motivated Act, Ms Grace told parliament, because it was formulated specifically to wipe away workplace laws from the previous Newman administration in Queensland and also to re-assert the state’s rights against the federal expansion of power.

“This bill will wipe away the last vestiges of the former Newman government’s unfair and unbalanced industrial relations laws in Queensland, she said.

"The LNP’s laws stripped away the hard-fought and won employment conditions of state and local government workers. Its laws failed to respect the rights of workers to collectively bargain with their employer for their wages and conditions. They tied up registered industrial organisations in expensive and ineffective red tape. Its laws made it harder for workers to be represented in their workplaces.”

She added that the state industrial relations system only covered state and local government workers as “the private sector is now covered by the national industrial relations system as a result of the hostile takeover by the Howard government in 2005 and the further referral of powers by the state government in 2010”.

Out with the old, in with the new

The new Act will repeal or amend a swathe of workplace and other laws including the Industrial Relations Act 1999; the Anti-Discrimination Act 1991; the Holidays Act 1983; the Hospital and Health Boards Act 2011; the Magistrates Courts Act 1921; the Ombudsman Act 2001; the Public Guardian Act 2014; the Public Service Act 2008; and the Workers’ Compensation and Rehabilitation Act 2003.

But what does it do?

The bill creates a legal framework for industrial relations for states and local government employees.

In brief, it sets:
  • minimum standards
  • collective bargaining as the foundation for setting wages and conditions with greater emphasis on representation and good faith bargaining
  • a set of individual rights to fair treatment
  • governance for registered organisations, and
  • an independent commission and court.
The bill also introduced paid leave for domestic violence sufferers; a “general protections jurisdiction” against adverse action during employment and remedies for workplace bullying.

It also gives the new commission exclusive jurisdiction to handle all (public and private sector) workplace related anti-discrimination cases and enables legal representation by a lawyer in the Commission based on how fair/unfair it would be to allow representation.

All employees in Queensland will have the right to unpaid emergency service (e.g. volunteer firefighting) leave. All Queensland-based employees will be entitled to leave for jury service and the employer must pay the employee the difference between the ordinary rate of pay and any monies received for jury service.

The new law will also make Easter Sunday an official public holiday from 2017 which will create additional wages costs of $80 million for the Queensland economy. The wages cost for the public sector will be an extra $4.8m to $13.3m. 
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