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Abbott Govt's submission to the Fair Work Commission

Abbott Govt's submission to the Fair Work Commission

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Published by Latika M Bourke
Govt submission
Govt submission

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Published by: Latika M Bourke on Feb 04, 2014
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02/04/2014

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IN THE FAIR WORK COMMISSION
Matter No.:
 AM2014/1 (4 Yearly Review of Modern Awards)
Re:
 Issues Paper, published 24 January 2014
Lodged by:
Victoria Gilmore, Department of Employment On behalf of the Australian Government
Telephone:
 (02) 6240 4988
Address for Service: Email:
 victoria.gilmore@deewr.gov.au GPO Box 9880 CANBERRA ACT 2601
 
1.
 
Introduction
1.1.
 
On 24 January 2014 the Fair Work Commission published an Issues Paper dealing with issues related to the first 4 yearly review of modern awards (the Review). The paper is to assist in the facilitation of a conference being convened by the Commission on 5 February 2014. The conference will commence the initial stage of the Review. 1.2.
 
Senator the Hon Eric Abetz, Minister for Employment, indicated in correspondence of 9 December 2013 to the President of the Commission, Justice Ross, that the Coalition Government would participate in the Review, including the initial stage. 1.3.
 
The Government makes the following submissions at the outset of the Review and in response to the draft propositions contained in the Issues Paper.
2.
 
Contrast with Two Year Review of Modern Awards (Transitional Review)
2.1.
 
The Government agrees with the Commission’s first draft proposition – the 4 yearly review is broader in scope than the Transitional Review of modern awards completed in 2013 – for the reasons outlined in the Issues Paper. 2.2.
 
In the decision about the scope of the Transitional Review the Full Bench advised parties that “awards made as a result of the award modernisation process are now deemed to be modern awards for the purpose of the
Fair Work Act 2009
(see Item 4 of Schedule 5 of the Transitional Provisions Act). Implicit in this is a legislative acceptance that the terms of the existing modern awards are consistent with the modern awards objective”.
1
 2.3.
 
While the current modern awards were consistent with the modern awards objective in 2008-09 when they were drafted, the Commission must use this Review to ensure modern awards remain consistent with the modern awards objective and consider whether the  practical effect of modern awards over the previous four years has adequately reflected the objective. 2.4.
 
The second reading speech to the Fair Work Bill 2008 makes it clear that awards should be responsive to the changing needs and expectations of the community.
1
 [2012] FWAFB 5600 at para 85.
 
2.5.
 
The Government submits that 4 yearly reviews are to be a comprehensive examination of the minimum terms and conditions of employment in modern awards, and their relevance to modern workplaces. The 4 yearly reviews are also an opportunity to re-align or dis-amalgamate awards, where necessary. 2.6.
 
The Government acknowledges the potential for significant changes to modern awards to occur as a result of this Review. With education being one of its core functions, the Fair Work Ombudsman will play an important role in ensuring that the community is made aware and has access to information about significant changes to modern awards arising from this process. The Fair Work Ombudsman can also provide the Commission with information about difficulties in the community in understanding modern awards.
3.
 
Modern Awards Objective
3.1.
 
The Government agrees with the draft proposition that the modern awards objective, set out in s.134 of the Fair Work Act is relevant to the conduct of the Review. 3.2.
 
The Government submits that modern awards should support job creation and therefore significant weight should be given to paragraphs (c), (d), (f), (g) and (h) of the modern awards objective. 3.3.
 
The softening economic environment and labour market should be carefully considered by the Commission during the Review. In particular, the Commission should consider the impact of employment costs on employers’ decision to hire workers over the next four years. 3.4.
 
The Government also submits that the Commission should take into account the need to ensure a simple, easy to understand modern awards system when setting and varying modern awards. Due to the limited timeframes of the award modernisation process, current modern awards contain a high degree of detail and can be difficult to interpret. They can be  particularly confusing for small business operators and individual employees who generally do not have specialist workplace relations experience.

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