Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations Bill Shorten today introduced the Fair Work Amendment Bill 2012 into the Parliament.
The Bill implements a number of recommendations of the independent Fair Work Act Review Panel (Review Panel), and other changes arising from the Minister’s consultation with stakeholders on the Review Panel’s report. These stakeholders include members of the National Workplace Relations Consultative Council, small business representatives, the Fair Work Ombudsman and Fair Work Australia.
The Bill also implements the Government’s response to the Productivity Commission Inquiry into Default Superannuation Funds in Modern Awards.
“The Government has decided to proceed with amendments to the Fair Work Act to implement recommendations from the Review Panel and other amendments that are broadly supported by stakeholders as a priority,” Mr Shorten said.
“The amendments I have introduced today include important recommendations covering unfair dismissal and structural arrangements and processes for Fair Work Australia. The Bill also includes measures to ensure an open and transparent process for the selection of default superannuation funds in modern awards.”
Under the Bill, Fair Work Australia will be renamed the Fair Work Commission.
“The name Fair Work Commission more accurately reflects the institution’s functions as Australia’s national workplace relations tribunal and role within the Fair Work system,” Mr Shorten said.
Structural amendments to the Fair Work Commission contained in the Bill include the creation of two Vice President positions to assist the President in managing the work of the Commission. There are also amendments implementing the Review Panel’s recommendation that the General Manager be appointed on the nomination of the President, which brings the procedure for the appointment of the General Manager into line with the procedure for the appointment of the Registrar of the Federal Court.
The Bill contains measures to improve the accountability of Commission Members, including a clear and transparent process for handling complaints against Members of the Commission and streamlined provisions dealing with conflicts of interest of Members.
The Fair Work Amendment Bill also includes a number of amendments to assist the work of the Commission, as recommended by the Review Panel and stakeholders. These amendments include providing for the appointment of acting Commissioners and for matters to be referred to a Full Bench or dealt with by the President in certain circumstances. They also include allowing the President or any Deputy President to make an order staying the application of a decision under appeal or review.
The Bill will implement several technical and clarifying recommendations made by the Review Panel, including:
- Prohibiting opt-out clauses in enterprise agreements;
- Clarifying that statutory enterprise agreements cannot be made with a single employee;
- Clarifying notification requirements for scope order applications;
- Clarifying what may be included in a notice of representative rights to employees;
- Prohibiting an individual union official being a bargaining representative of an employee where the union does not have coverage;
- Clarifying when a modern award variation application can be struck out and who can apply for a modern award to be varied;
- Clarifying how protected action ballots can be conducted, while preserving the existing strict requirements and processes around when protected industrial action can be taken.
“I thank all stakeholders who engaged with the Review Panel and who have provided me with their feedback on the recommendations. I remain committed to working with employers, employees and their representatives on implementing the remaining Review Panel recommendations,” Mr Shorten said.