QUEENSLAND MOVES INTO NATIONAL INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS SYSTEM FOR THE PRIVATE SECTOR
The Queensland legislation referring state industrial relations powers for the private sector to the Commonwealth will commence on 31 December 2009. This will complement the Commonwealth legislation for a national industrial relations system, which will commence on 1 January 2010.
The Queensland Parliament passed the Fair Work (Commonwealth Powers) and Other Provisions Act 2009 on 11 November 2009. With the passage of the necessary complementary Commonwealth legislation through the Senate on 2 December 2009, Queensland will take the final step in becoming part of a national industrial relations system for the private sector.
The new arrangements will protect the rights of workers and allow employers to operate under a system that reduces red tape and where their obligations are no different from those in other States and Territories.
The new national industrial relations system will apply to all Queensland private sector employees. Public sector and local government workers in Queensland will remain under the state industrial relations system.
The Queensland legislation contains transitional arrangements and provides for the saving and transmission of State awards and agreements for private sector employers and employees being referred into the national industrial relations system.
For the first 12 months after 1 January 2010, State awards will continue to operate as federal instruments, with the same content as before the referral, and they will continue to apply to the same parties. They will be subject to the National Employment Standards safety net and national minimum wage order on a no detriment basis; meaning that the more beneficial entitlements in a state award or agreement will continue to apply.
During these 12 months, Fair Work Australia is required to make arrangements to transition employers and employees from the State awards to a relevant modern award by 1 January 2011. This will include considering whether modern awards should be amended to continue the effect of terms that are contained in State awards.
At the end of the 12 month period, employees and employers in Queensland’s referred jurisdiction will move onto Commonwealth modern awards.
Like State awards, State enterprise bargaining agreements applicable to employers and employees being referred into the national industrial relations system will be preserved and continue to operate until either:
. replaced by a new agreement under the Commonwealth Fair Work Act 2009;
. terminated by agreement of the parties and approved by Fair Work Australia; or
. terminated after the nominal expiry date of the agreement on application by one party to Fair Work Australia (subject to the termination being appropriate and not contrary to the public interest).
In respect of apprentices and trainees, the Commonwealth has committed to making regulations that, from 1 January 2010, will ensure all existing orders prescribing entitlements of trainees and apprentices will continue to operate as federal transitional instruments, until Fair Work Australia completes a comprehensive review of all apprentice and trainee arrangements.
Information about wages and employment conditions regarding Queensland private sector employers and employees will be available from the Federal Workplace Infoline on 1300 363 264 from 1 January 2010.
COMPLIANCE WITH THE NATIONAL SYSTEM
Compliance services encompassing the enforcement of awards and agreements for the private sector and audit campaigns will be the responsibility of the Federal Workplace Ombudsman. In this regard, employees who feel they have not received their correct wages and/or employment conditions will be able to lodge claims with the Ombudsman’s office.
The existing Queensland industrial inspectorate through its extensive regional office locations will deliver compliance services for and in conjunction with the Federal Workplace Ombudsman as from 1 January 2010. The range of services will include wage complaint investigation, proactive audit campaigns and transitional education visits to employer workplaces to assist in creating awareness of employers’ obligations in the new environment. The Queensland inspectorate will also continue to carry out services in relation to Queensland legislation pertaining to child employment, trading hours, private employment agents, workers accommodation and holidays.
For more information on this topic or any other please contact Kenneth J.Law