The Federal Government has recently passed through Parliament the initial stage of the reform to the existing Industrial Relations legislation. This marks a turning point in the national Industrial Relations sector and opens the way towards a new system for this country.

The Labor Government has promised that Australia will have a current and, perhaps more importantly, national award system, as well as 10 national employment standards by 2010. At present, the comments from those that have seen the proposed material remark on the minimal nature of the conditions and add that this will allow for possible manipulation through the application of collective bargaining.

It is widely expressed that collective bargaining agreements will play a large role in Australia’s Industrial Relations future. Under the new legislation, Australian employers will be stripped of the freedom they had to bargain away even the minimal conditions of their employees under the former Government’s WorkChoices. Once the new reforms are fully implemented employers will be forced to consider how the minimum terms will impact upon the operation of their organisations. They can also expect to see a greater union presence within the workplace as well as experiencing increased pressure from the unions to make a commitment to the new standards prior to their official introduction in 2010.

The Act that has recently been passed has done away with the all-to-well known Australian Workplace Agreements (AWAs). Instead it has introduced Individual Transitional Employment Agreements (ITEAs) as a transitional tool for those employers who are currently using AWAs as we move towards the new system of 2010.

It also re-introduces the ‘no disadvantage test’ that will be applied to any new workplace agreement that is lodged. The test provides for the Australian Industrial Relations Commission to implement the ‘award modernisation’ process as promised by the ALP in the lead up the last election.

In regards to necessary action, there is no requirement for employers to begin taking any immediate action, unless they are currently negotiating a workplace agreement. If this is the case, it is important for them to consider the impact that the re-introduction of the test will have on the agreement that is being made. For now, employers and company directors should look to gain an understanding of their organisations current industrial relations arrangements and begin to consider whether, and when, the possibility of a problem occurring may arise as a result of the reforms.

It is expected that there will be further amendments to legislation around the middle of this year and the message to employers considering introducing new, or amending existing, strategies is to anticipate further reforms and ensure any amendments contain the flexibility to adjust accordingly with any newly introduced changes to the legislation. 

The professionals at The Quinn Group are experienced in the area of Employment Law. Whether you are an employer or employee, we are equipped to assist and advise you so that you not only adhere to the current legislation but to also ensure that agreements are made in the interests of all concerned parties. Please <click here> to complete our online enquiry form or call 1300 QUINNS for more information regarding Australia’s Industrial Relations Reforms.