The message from the ALP is quite clear

Changes to the Industrial relations system under a Shorten-led labor government in 2019.

Note opinions presented in this article are those of ER Strategies only, unless indicated otherwise 

A series of polls have indicated the Shorten-led Opposition may win the May 2019 federal election. Here’s a general outline of Labor’s vision on changes to the Australian industrial relations system, as announced so far, many of which promise major changes of importance to franchise employers.  

Changes to Labour Hire  

The ALP will introduce a national labour hire scheme which requires all labour hire companies (including offshore ones) to be licenced, to protect workers from exploitation by these companies.  

In addition to licensing and perhaps more importantly, labour hire workers will also be entitled to the same pay and entitlements as if they were employees of the client Company i.e. ‘same work, same pay’.  

Introduction of a ‘Living Wage’ 

Labor has announced that a Bill Shorten government would amend the Fair Work Act to instruct the Fair Work Commission, which sets the nation’s minimum wage, to determine “what a living wage should be”, taking into account the views of all stakeholders, including the business community and unions. 

The assessment would take into account the amount of tax paid and family benefits or other social payments, as well as the increased cost of modern life. 

However, as announced, the living wage would not flow through to award wages and only apply to those who receive the national minimum wage, currently set at $18.93 an hour. 

Restoring cuts to Sunday and Public Holiday Penalty Rates 

The ALP has also proposed that within its first 100 days in office, it will restore Sunday and public holidays penalties to 2017 rates, for employees in the hospitality, fast food and general retail industries. In addition, the ALP will also prohibit any future variations to Modern Awards which may result in reduction of take-home pay by employees.  

Sunday rates in awards covering the Retail and Fast Food sectors have been progressively reducing under decisions of the Fair Work Commission, after extensive cases were conducted under modern award review rules the previous Labor Government had introduced in 2009. 

It is not yet clear to us what the mechanism will be to restore the previous higher Sunday penalties and whether the changes will override enterprise agreements entered into before the changes are enacted. 

Additions to the NES 

Labor has reportedly promised the following enhancements to legislated minimum employee entitlements – 

Enterprise Bargaining  

According to lawyers Herbert Smith Freehills the ALP also plans to reform the current enterprise bargaining system and introduce an Industry-wide bargaining system. It is unclear as yet if this will be limited to just the ‘low paid’ sectors.  

The new system will allow unions to simultaneously press claims upon multiple employers as part of concerted industrial campaigns. The “right-to-strike” to advance those claims will be easier to be accessed as well. 

Freehills say a new concept of a ‘disclosure framework’ will require the employer to disclose the information they used to reject claims made by employee bargaining representatives.  

Enterprise agreements will also no longer be terminated without consent from all parties involved. This signals that a reversion to the relevant award will no longer be the default outcome when an application to terminate an agreement is made.  

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