Federal Government attempts to introduce legislation to limit industrial action
The Fair Work Amendment (Bargaining Processes) Bill 2014 was introduced into the Federal Parliament on 27 November 2014. If passed into law, the bill will amend sections 187 and 443 of the Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth) to:
- Require the Fair Work Commission, when approving a collective bargaining agreement (enterprise agreement), to be satisfied that the employer and employees, when bargaining for the agreement, discussed ways to improve productivity in the workplace; and
- Prevent the Fair Work Commission from making a protected action ballot order (which allows employees to engage in protected industrial action) where it is satisfied that either: (i) the employees' claims are manifestly excessive (having regard to the conditions at the workplace and the industry in which the employer operates); or (ii) if implemented, the employees' requests would have a significant adverse impact on productivity in the workplace.
Whether the proposed legislation will pass through the Australian Senate and be introduced into law is unclear. Many of the Federal Government's recent reforms have been frustrated by an adversarial Senate.
Employers battling with unions in the Fair Work Commission and who are about to commence enterprise bargaining negotiations will be following the bill's progress carefully.
Thanks to associates Michael Whitbread and Viv Jones and Summer Clerk William Maher for their assistance in the preparation of this Update.