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New Workplace laws pose another big implementation challenge

30 March, 2009

"With the passage of the Fair Work Bill through Parliament employers face big challenges to understand the requirements of the new workplace relations system ahead of the implementation date of 1 July," the Chief Executive of the Australian Industry Group, Heather Ridout, has said.

"The development of the Fair Work legislation has been a long and difficult process. The consultation process was comprehensive and constructive and clearly the Government was put under huge pressure from all sides. Employers had little to gain and much to lose and Ai Group has worked extremely hard to achieve a workable outcome for employers.

"Ai Group was able to secure many important improvements to the Bill for employers along the way as well as ultimately some very important last minute amendments, including:

  • Provisions which only allow union officials to access pay records of non-union members with the agreement of the employee or by order of Fair Work Australia;
  • Workable greenfields agreement provisions;
  • Important changes to the bargaining framework to ensure that employers cannot be forced to make concessions during bargaining, and that appropriate criteria apply for majority support determinations and scope orders;
  • Provisions which enable employers to retain national long service leave schemes in enterprise agreements; and
  • Improved transfer of employment laws.
"Also, a number of 11th hour amendments which Ai Group opposed were defeated in the Senate including onerous obligations on the transport industry, the watering down of protections for third parties faced with damaging industrial action, and increased consultation obligations relating to workplace changes.

"Now that the law has passed there is a big task ahead to educate employers about the requirements of the new law to assist in its implementation. Given the current economic environment this is even more complicated for business today.

"We will need to see how the laws operate in practice. It will be some time before the laws are settled and Parliament needs to remain open to amendments if problems arise.

"It is hoped that employers can now look forward to a period of stability in workplace relations. It is extremely costly and disruptive to implement a new workplace relations system every few years," Ridout said.

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