Labor and crossbench Senators yesterday succeeded in passing an amendment to the Fair Work Amendment (Repeal of 4 Yearly Reviews and Other Measures) Bill 2017 (Bill) to include provisions overturning the Fair Work Commission’s February 2017 decision to reduce Sunday and public holiday penalty rates in some Awards.

The Bill was originally introduced by the government to amend the Fair Work Act to:

  • overcome the requirement for strict compliance with Notice of Representational Rights (NERR) requirements
  • remove the requirement for the Fair Work Commission (FWC) to conduct 4 yearly reviews of modern awards
  • give the Minister for Employment and FWC President Ross greater power in dealing with complaints and other disciplinary actions involving FWC members.

The vote outcome: 32 Senators in favour of Labor’s amendments and 27 opposed.

Debate in the House of Representatives has been adjourned until 2018, with the opposition not successful in its attempt to have the amendments considered immediately. Parliament is scheduled to resume sitting on 5 February 2018.

The Bill was first introduced into the House of Representatives on 1 March 2017. Despite the matters contained in the Bill being perceived as largely uncontroversial and generally supported by most stakeholders, the debate in Parliament has centred on attempts to incorporate legislative protections for penalty rates within the current Bill. Unfortunately, while this is happening, genuine and relatively minor technical amendments that are of real value to employers and their employees who have reached agreement on employment terms are being held up.

AMMA will continue to watch the progress of the Bill closely.