Senator Eric Abetz, Minister for Employment, has today introduced the Fair Work Amendment Bill 2014 (the Bill). If passed, the Bill will make amendments to the existing Fair Work Act 2006, including changes to:
- individual flexibility arrangements
- Greenfield agreements, and
- rights of entry.
Broadly, the amendments will function to increase options available to employers, and further encourage individualised negotiations between employees and their employer. Unions have already raised strong opposition to the Bill.
Individual flexibility arrangements
Under the current law, individual flexibility arrangements are limited in scope and can only be implemented where the individual employees will be better off overall as a result of any proposed changes to entitlements under an award or enterprise agreement (otherwise known as the BOOT test). The Bill does not propose to remove the BOOT test.
The Bill proposes to expand the scope of the individual flexibility arrangement system, by removing restrictions over the matters that employees and employers can, by agreement, vary. For example, this would include allowing employees to trade-off penalty rates in return for increased flexibility. We anticipate this proposal will generate a lot of debate and media attention.
If passed, the Bill will remove the union veto power over Greenfields agreements. If agreement cannot be reached after three months, employers will have the option of taking a proposed Greenfields agreement to the Fair Work Commission.
Rights of entry
Under the Bill, right of entry laws would be returned to their pre-Fair Work Act position. In his press release, Mr Abetz drew particular attention to the obligation imposed by the Bill on union officials to comply with a reasonable request from an employer to hold discussions in a particular room.