The Rudd Government today endorsed a range of urgent legislative amendments to the Workplace Relations Act 1996.
The amendments will begin the process of phasing out the previous Liberal government’s Work Choices laws.
The transition bill, which is currently being drafted, will be introduced into the Parliament as a matter of priority in the first sitting week of 2008.
The transition bill will, among other things will:
- prevent the making of new Australian Workplace Agreements;
- create a new form of individual workplace agreement – the Interim Transitional Employment Agreement (ITEA) – to be available only for limited use during the transitional period;
- remove the previous Liberal government’s Workplace Relations Fact Sheet requirements;
- put in place a new no-disadvantage test for new agreements to provide better protection for employees; and
- enable the Australian Industrial Relations Commission (AIRC) to undertake the process of modernising industrial awards.
In order to pass the new no-disadvantage test, collective agreements must not disadvantage employees when compared with the Australian Fair Pay and Conditions Standard (the current Standard) and the relevant award.
Similarly, ITEAs must not disadvantage employees when compared with an applicable collective agreement and the current Standard or, in the absence of such an agreement, the current Standard and the relevant award.
In addition to the legislation, the Rudd Government will release an exposure draft of legislative amendments to create the ten National Employment Standards.
Together with modernised awards, these legislated Standards will form the safety net for the workplace relations system to operate from 2010.
Releasing an exposure draft of the National Employment Standards will provide an opportunity for businesses and other stakeholders to fully consider the content of the National Employment Standards. This will ultimately make it easier for business to apply and comply with National Employment Standards.
Comments on the exposure draft will be sought by April 2008, with a view to settling the content of the National Employment Standards by June 2008. This will provide sufficient time for the AIRC to take the National Employment Standards into account when undertaking the award modernisation process.
These reforms, which are consistent with the Government’s Forward with Fairness – Policy Implementation Plan released in August 2007, will provide certainty for Australian employers and employees by ensuring a sensible and measured transition to the Rudd Government’s substantial workplace relations reforms to commence in 2010.
The Rudd Government’s new workplace relations system will be fair, flexible and focused on productivity. Australia must improve its productivity performance to keep our economy strong today and in the future.
The Minister for Employment & Workplace Relations will continue to liaise with state and territory Ministers and will also discuss key elements of the transition bill with stakeholders through the National Workplace Relations Consultative Council due to meet tomorrow.