On 13 July the Fair Work Commission created two new modern awards to cover councils and employees: the Victorian Local Government Award 2015, and the Nurses (ANMF – Victorian Local Government) Award 2015.

The new awards will cover the local government sector from 20 July 2015, establishing a new safety net for all local government employees other than Chief Executive Officers.

The awards will replace the pre-reform Victorian Local Authorities Award 2001 and the Nurses (Victorian Local Government) Award 2002.

The Victorian Local Government Award 2015 is based on the national Local Government Industry Award 2010 as the Commission rejected submissions by the ASU and APESMA that it should be based on the Victorian Local Authorities Award 2001. This means that the new award is considerably more flexible and less ambiguous than the current award.

For most councils, there will be little immediate impact from this development.  The new awards will not override a council’s existing enterprise agreement except to the extent that the new awards provide an improved base rate of pay.

However, any council which is currently in the process of negotiating or lodging an enterprise agreement should familiarise itself with the terms of these new awards, as council enterprise agreements will now be compared against these new awards when the Commission is considering the better off overall test.

There are other scenarios in which councils may have to deal with the modern awards in the near future, but they will depend on the content of each council’s existing enterprise agreement. For example: 

  • The new awards will apply to senior officers on packages of less than $136,700 if they are not covered by a council enterprise agreement.
  • The new awards may be incorporated into a council’s enterprise agreement if the agreement incorporates the pre-reform awards “as varied or replaced from time to time”.

In the long-term, the new awards present councils with a more streamlined safety net for employee entitlements than the preceding awards. While we envisage that employees will resist any erosion of the benefits they receive under a pre-reform award, councils should view this development as an opportunity to update and simplify their enterprise agreements.