A NEW Senate inquiry is set to look into ‘corporate avoidance of the Fair Work Act’ after Labor and the Greens gained support of some crossbench Senators last week.

The inquiry follows some high profile industrial relations disputes including the dispute and picket line over Carlton and United Breweries’ outsourcing of maintenance work.

The Senate’s Education and Employment References Committee will inquire and report on a loose collection of concerns raised by unions around the incidence of, and trends in, corporate avoidance of the Fair Work Act 2009, with particular reference to:

(a) the use of labour hire and/or contracting arrangements that affect workers’ pay and conditions;

(b) voting cohorts to approve agreements with a broad scope that affect workers’ pay and conditions;

(c)   the use of agreement termination that affect workers’ pay and conditions;

(d) the effectiveness of transfer of business provisions in protecting workers’ pay and conditions;

(e)   the avoidance of redundancy entitlements by labour hire companies;

(f)    the effectiveness of any protections afforded to labour hire employees from unfair dismissal;

(g) the approval of enterprise agreements by workers not yet residing in Australia that affect workers’ pay and conditions;

(h)   the extent to which companies avoid their obligations under the Fair Work Act 2009 by engaging workers on visas;

(i)    whether the National Employment Standards and modern awards act as an effective ‘floor’ for wages and conditions and the extent to which companies enter into arrangements that avoid those obligations;

(j)    legacy issues relating to WorkChoices and Australian Workplace Agreements;

(k)   the economic and fiscal impact of reducing wages and conditions across the economy; and

(l)    any other related matters.

AMMA head of policy Scott Barklamb anticipates resource industry operations being drawn into the inquiry, and the Committee potentially wanting to look into and hear from AMMA member organisations on outsourcing and agreement termination.

“Term of reference (j) may also be relevant to some employers who retain employees on expired instruments that remain in force,” Mr Barklamb says.

“The inquiry is unnecessary and misdirected. However, in addition to explaining and defending the used of legitimate employment practices in the resource industry, AMMA will also aim to use this as an opportunity to advance positive points and arguments for reform in areas such as:

  • The importance of terms and conditions being realistic for the doing of business in current market conditions, which in the resource industry have changed markedly from the peak of the investment boom.
  • The well understood and accepted nature of contracting in the resource industry, which in no way can be characterised as avoidance.
  • How voting for agreements must precede mobilisation for work on particular projects (under non-Greenfield arrangements).
  • The transfer of business obligations under the Fair Work Act and how they are discouraging the re-employment of existing staff work when contracts change.”

AMMA will keep members informed on matters raised throughout the inquiry, and will make a written submission by late November. The Committee is required to report by August 2017.

Have any concerns or queries about this inquiry? AMMA’s policy team are here to help. Please call 1800 627 771 or email [email protected] or [email protected]