WorkChoices is dead

Here are the highlights and the practical outcomes of Labor’s IR laws, now through Parliament, writes PETER VITALE.

By Peter Vitale

WorkChoices is dead New IR

Here are the highlights and the practical outcomes of Labor’s IR laws, now through Parliament.

Last week saw the passage of Labor’s transitional industrial relations legislation through the Federal Parliament.

The bill passed following a Senate inquiry and a range of mainly technical amendments in response to that inquiry.

It is likely to become law within weeks, after the Government has an opportunity to finalise amendments to the ancillary regulations.

The highlights of new law are:

  • Individual Australian Workplace Agreements will be replaced by “Individual Transitional Employment Agreements” (ITEAs). ITEAs will only be able to be made up to the end of 2009.
  • The new no disadvantage test will replace the Fairness Test – with amendments made to the bill, the No Disadvantage Test will not only be assessed against Federal minimum conditions (such as those in awards), but also against state long service leave legislation.
  • Unlike WorkChoices, collective agreements and awards can be revived after a replacement agreement is ended. This will effectively set a floor under negotiations for a subsequent collective agreements.
  • The overhaul of awards by the Australian Industrial Relations Commission will commence, with few commentators believing the job will be done by the Government’s legislated 31 December 2009 deadline.

Some of the practical outcomes of the new law for small and medium sized business owners are:

  • You still have a few weeks to get new AWAs in place – down the track they may still continue to operate past the December 2012 nominal expiry date unless replaced by another agreement. The Greens and the union movement say this shows that AWAs are not dead.
  • You can still make individual agreements with employees (ITEAs) provided you had an AWA in your workplace before 1 December 2007.
  • Unfair dismissal laws have NOT changed as part of this legislation.
  • The process for lodging and approving collective and individual agreements will remain largely the same, with the Workplace Authority handling that task. Whether it will be appropriately resourced remains to be seen.

For the next round of IR legislation, the Government could have a fight with the union on its hands.

Unions have already expressed dissatisfaction with Labor’s policy to leave unchanged the Howard government’s union right of entry laws, and they are demanding extended rights to take industrial action.

The next round of IR laws are due to be in Parliament later this year, with a 1 January 2010 start date.


Related stories:

>> The key IR cards Labor has laid on the table

>> IR: A national system has a long way to go

>> Rudd IR: How will the legislation look?


 Peter Vitale is the principal of CCI Victoria Legal



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