Fair Work Amendment Bill 2014

Media Release
  • Leader of the Government in the Senate
  • Minister for Employment
  • Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for the Public Service
  • Senator for Tasmania

The Government has today introduced the Fair Work Amendment Bill 2014 which gives effect to a number of election commitments made in The Coalition’s Policy to Improve the Fair Work Laws.

This Bill implements our publically stated policy – nothing more, nothing less. In particular, in relation to Right of Entry, Individual Flexibility Arrangements and closing the strike first, talk later loophole, the Government is delivering on promises that were made by Labor in 2007 but not honoured in government.

Other amendments include recommendations from Mr Shorten’s 2012 Fair Work Act Review that he failed to act on. Mr Shorten has never specifically opposed any of these recommendations.

Greenfields agreements

The Bill will remove the effective union veto power over greenfields agreements, which have enabled them to frustrate the making of these agreements and delay the commencement of major projects worth billions of dollars. As the former Labor Government’s own Fair Work Review noted, these practices ‘potentially threaten future investment in major projects in Australia’. Under the amendments, employers will have the option of taking a proposed greenfields agreement to the Fair Work Commission if agreement has not been reached after three months.

These amendments demonstrate again that Australia is once more open for business and the government is concentrating on job creation.

Union right of entry

The Bill will also deliver on Labor’s 2007 election promise in relation to right of entry – a promise that it subsequently broke. In 2007, then Deputy Opposition Leader Julia Gillard promised:

“We will make sure that current right of entry provisions stay. We understand that entering on the premises of an employer needs to happen in an orderly way. We will keep the right of entry provisions.”

This Bill will restore the sensible arrangements that were previously in place, whereby union officials must comply with a reasonable request by the employer to hold discussions in a particular room. Employers will continue to be prevented from nominating locations with the intention of intimidating, discouraging or hindering employees from participating in discussions. These changes will restore right of entry rules to largely reflect the rules as they stood prior to the Fair Work Act – consistent with Labor’s 2007 election promise.

The Fair Work Amendment Bill will reverse Bill Shorten’s most recent amendments to right of entry rules, allowing for a lunch room invasion and helicopter joy rides for union officials at employer expense.

Individual Flexibility Arrangements (IFAs)

IFAs were first promised by Labor in 2007 and should have been an important tool for workers and businesses to mutually agree on conditions that suit their needs, while ensuring that employees have to be better off overall under the IFA. The Labor Party has been clear that Individual Flexibility Arrangements are not individual statutory agreements:

“Fair Work, in complete contrast to Work Choices, allows for Individual Flexibility Arrangements (IFA) which ensure that employees are always better off overall against the underlying award or enterprise agreement. Individual Flexibility Arrangements are not individual statutory agreements.”

Julia Gillard Media Release Individual Flexibility Arrangements – 17 September 2009

The Bill introduces amendments to provide clarity and certainty for workers and their employers around Individual Flexibility Arrangements (IFAs). IFAs were included in the Fair Work Act since its commencement, but have fallen well short of what Labor promised in its 2007 election policy to introduce IFAs:

“Under Labor’s new system, awards will provide the parameters within which flexibility arrangements can be made under an award flexibility clause. This may include matters such as:

  • rostering and hours of work;
  • all up rates of pay;
  • provisions that certain award conditions may not apply where an employee is paid above a fixed percentage as set out in the award; and
  • an arrangement to allow the employee to start and finish work early to allow them to collect their children from school without the employer paying additional penalty rates for the early start.”

(ALP “Forward with Fairness Policy Implementation Plan”, August 2007, page 11)

The current protections for employees making IFAs will be retained and there will be an additional protection put in place. These protections include:

  • An IFA cannot be a condition of employment;
  • Only a worker can approach an employer for an IFA;
  • An employer cannot force an employee to sign an IFA;
  • the employee must provide a statement to the employer saying how the IFA meets their genuine needs and how they consider themselves better off overall.

The Bill will deliver genuine IFAs, in line with Labor’s initial promise in 2007, which it also failed to keep. Any claims that these changes are anything different are simply dishonest scare tactics.

Fair Work Act Review Panel recommendations

The bill also delivers on the Coalition’s election policy to implement a number of other amendments to the Fair Work Act recommended by the 2012 Fair Work Act Review that were ignored by the previous government.

This Bill is good for jobs, good for workers, good for employers and good for the economy.

 

For more information

Media line: (02) 6240 8667, media@employment.gov.au