On 27 February 2014, the Government introduced the Fair Work Amendment Bill 2014 (FWA Bill), which gives effect to a number of aspects of the Coalition's Policy to Improve the Fair Work Laws. Key amendments include:
- tightening right of entry rules for unions;
- introducing mechanisms to overcome impasses in bargaining for greenfields agreements;
- prohibiting the Fair Work Commission (FWC) from making protected action ballot orders prior to bargaining commencing; and
- expanding the scope of individual flexibility arrangements.
The FWA Bill is the third substantive bill to be introduced by the Government which touches upon the industrial relations system and seeks to make changes consistent with its policy position announced before the federal election.
The other two bills are the Fair Work (Registered Organisations) Amendment Bill2013 and the Building and Construction Industry (Improving Productivity) Bill 2013. These bills are currently before the Senate Education and Employment References Committee.
The Government's reform program however is not complete, although will continue to be quite measured. The further changes which appear to be within more immediate contemplation include:
- changes to existing duration and rates of paid parental leave;
- the creation of an independent appeals jurisdiction within the FWC; and
- a review of the Fair Work Laws by the Productivity Commission - broad terms of reference reported by Fairfax media in March 2014 indicate that the review will include economic conditions, unemployment, strike levels and ‘fair and equitable pay and conditions’.
A table summarising the key changes set out in the FWA Bill, and the Government’s future possible reforms can be viewed here.