In an opinion piece in The Australian Failings of enterprise bargaining agreements plain for all to see Judith Sloane reiterated her concerns about the state of Australia’s enterprise bargaining. “A few months ago I wrote that enterprise bargaining was on its last legs. I need to revise that position: it’s actually on its knees. There are a few sectors in which enterprise bargaining continues to chug along — in large-scale construction and in the public sector, for instance. But the figures clearly point to a marked decline in the number of new agreements and a falling proportion of the workforce now covered by agreements. There is also the trend for companies to seek to have their enterprise agreements terminated by order of the Fair Work Commission, something that clearly terrifies trade union officials and the ACTU. Recall that enterprise agreements continue to operate beyond their nominal expiry dates. So they just roll on if nothing happens, although what happens to further pay rises is unclear.”
In “Federal Court cracks down on ‘sham’ enterprise agreements”, The Australian Financial Review reported the Federal Court ruling overturning a major labour hire deal voted on by three workers at One Key Resources, which “later covered more than a thousand in the mining industry”. “The precedent ruling against One Key Resources, which is one of the biggest labour providers in the black coal industry, could mean the end of a common practice for labour hire firms that unions argue undercuts wages and conditions,” David Marin-Gusman reported. The article noted Justice Geoffrey Flick found the 2015 enterprise agreement was “invalid because three workers with limited job experience could not genuinely agree to a deal that covered 11 job classifications extending well beyond mining and construction and into road transport, clerks and hospitality.” The article concluded, “while the company pays its workers at market rates higher than the agreement, the agreement’s lower minimum pay gave it a competitive edge by allowing it greater flexibility over its tender price.”
In another matter, The Australian Financial Review reported, “Fair Work Commission staff must only use ‘appropriate’ language”, noting Fair Work Commission staff are not allowed to use the same profanities that one of its recent rulings found was unexceptional. Acting Australian Public Service Commissioner Stephanie Foster told The Australian Financial Review all public servants, including Fair Work employees, “are expected to behave professionally and use appropriate language in their dealings with clients and colleagues”. “As employees, their behaviour should be respectful towards other people, reflecting community standards.” The story followed a controversial ruling that a South32 electrician and mining union delegate was unfairly sacked for abusing his co-workers.
The Australian Financial Review also reported on a second FWC ruling that South32 had unfairly sacked another mining union delegate at its Appin Colliery for stripping down to his underwear as part of a workplace protest against laundry service cuts.
There were a series of stories reporting on the WGEA 2017 scorecard. The Australian Financial Review’s Gender pay gap rises for female-dominated industries, noted the decline in the pay gap was most evident in mining, construction and manufacturing.
The West Australian reported positive news in Mid-tier miners back in black after five years.