AWAs on the chopping block

AWAs could be consigned to the legal dustbin in less than a month following a Coalition shift to allow a Senate inquiry into Labor’s IR laws to finish early.

The Coalition had previously sought to prolong the inquiry until as late as 28 April, but Opposition members of the inquiry yesterday did not oppose a Labor push for it to report on 17 March.

And given recent comments by workplace relations shadow minister Julie Bishop suggesting that the Coalition would not seek to block the laws in the Senate, it now seems likely that Labor’s transitional IR laws will be in operation by April.

That would mean employers and employees would not be able to enter into any new AWAs from April, although existing AWAs will continue to operate until expiry or termination.

The legislation will also give effect to Labor’s new Individual Transitional Employment Agreements. But the prospect that these agreements will be taken up with enthusiasm by the business community are appearing increasingly remote.

The mining and resources sector was the first to take up AWAs and was thought to be the sector most likely to utilise ITEAs under the new regime. But, according to The Australian newspaper, many mining businesses are planning to move straight from AWAs to a combination of collective agreements and common law contracts.

Groups such as the Master Builders Association have already said that they will advice most of its members to use collective agreements instead of ITEAs.

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