Employment Law · Additional Resources

The Queensland Industrial Relations Act of 1999 created increased options for workplace bargaining and agreements.

Formal agreements can now be put in place under the Act as an alternative to an award and there are two options:-

Benefits

The benefits for employers could include:-

The benefits for employees could include:-

Mandatory requirements

Both options for workplace bargaining must include the following points in the agreement:-

The third point is the most difficult issue to satisfy. For the agreement to be approved employees must be no worse off under a workplace agreement, having regard to their overall wages and working conditions as a whole than they would have been entitled to under an award.

Federal

There are similar provisions set out in the Commonwealth Workplace Relations Act for workplace bargaining in business that have a predominantly national workforce.

Negotiation

In respect of certified agreements, they must be approved by a majority of employees. Negotiations must be in good faith and the Industrial Relations Commission has power to assist with conciliation and, if that is unsuccessful, arbitration. Further, the agreement can not be inconsistent with the provisions of the Industrial Relations Act dealing with General Employment Conditions, Unfair Dismissals and Freedom of Association.

In respect of workplace agreements, they must be freely entered into by the employee and must not be contrary to public interest eg considering the relative bargaining powers of the parties.

The employer must ensure that employees have access to a copy of the proposed agreement and the employer must take reasonable steps to ensure that employees understand these provisions.

With respect to certified agreements, negotiations can be directly between an employer and employees or be made with relevant unions. For the unions to be involved however, one of the employees must be a member of the particular union.

With respect to a workplace agreement, either the employer or the employees are entitled to appoint a bargaining agent to negotiate on their behalf.

Industrial action

All parties under either agreement can take authorised industrial action and are immune from legal action provided certain conditions are met with respect to industrial action which require that parties make a genuine attempt to reach an agreement before industrial action. If a party wishes to take industrial action, they must give at least three working days’ notice and that industrial action must not involve personal injury, property damage or unlawful use or taking of property.

Approval and operation

Once an agreement has been made and approved by all parties, it must be lodged with the Queensland Industrial Relations Commission for certification. It must be lodged for certification within twenty-one (21) days.

A workplace agreement, after signing by both parties, has to be filed within fourteen (14) days with the Industrial Registrar or Employment Advocate and is then passed to the Enterprise Commissioner for approval.

The maximum period of either agreement is three years. After this term, they can be terminated, amended or extended only if the employer and the employee agree. The same negotiation process and legislative requirements are followed.



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