Reforms to the State Industrial Relations System
On 14 November 2012, the Government tabled in Parliament a draft Bill to reform the State industrial relations system. The draft Labour Relations Legislation Amendment and Repeal Bill 2012 has been tabled as a Green Bill, meaning it is a Bill for public comment. Interested parties have now provided written submissions on the draft Bill to the Department of commerce.
Consultation on the Draft Bill to Reform the State Industrial Relations System
On 14 November 2012, the Government tabled in the Western Australian Parliament the draft Labour Relations Legislation Amendment and Repeal Bill 2012 (the draft Bill). The draft Bill seeks to reform the State industrial relations system.
The Bill was tabled as a Green Bill, meaning that it is for public comment and does not necessarily represent the Government’s settled position.
The Western Australian Government publicly announced its proposed reforms to the State industrial relations system in December 2010 Government's proposed reforms to the State industrial relations system - December 2010 [PDF, 70 Kb]. It undertook consultation on the proposed reforms in May 2011 and this draft Bill takes into account stakeholder feedback.
The Western Australian Government intends to consider all submissions made on the draft Bill before finalising these laws.
Summary of the draft Bill
In summary, the draft Bill proposes to amend the Industrial Relations Act 1979 (IR Act) as follows:
- streamline the structure of the Western Australian Industrial Relations Commission (Commission) but retain the Commission’s conciliation and arbitration powers. The draft Bill will abolish the President’s position and replace the President with a Supreme Court judge sitting on the Full Bench. It will also abolish public service arbitrators and Public Service Appeal Boards (which deal exclusively with government officers in the public service) and transfer their functions and jurisdiction to a single commissioner of the Commission. The Railways Classification Board will be abolished;
- require the Commission to undertake an award modernisation process of all State private sector awards. The Commission will also be required to review all State awards every four years to ensure they remain relevant;
- provide that industrial agreements can only be terminated by the Commission, and extend the maximum nominal expiry date of industrial agreements to four years and enterprise orders to three years;
- broadly harmonise the IR Act’s unfair dismissal provisions with those of the federal Fair Work Act 2009 (FW Act). For example, employees will only be able to claim unfair dismissal if they have worked for a minimum period of 12 months for a small business employer (employing less than 15 employees), or six months for any other employer;
- broadly harmonise the IR Act’s right of entry provisions with those of the FW Act. Union officials will be required to meet a “fit and proper person” test before being issued with a right of entry permit. Unions will generally be required to give at least 24 hours’ written notice before entering premises, unless the entry relates to a suspected contravention of occupational safety and health laws. Civil penalties will apply where right of entry is abused or hindered;
- streamline the process for determining State minimum wages by removing the requirement that the Commission hold a formal hearing. When making its State minimum wage order, the Commission will be required to consider, among other things, the national minimum wage order and the capacity of employers to whom the order extends to bear the wage increase (rather than all employers in Western Australia as is currently the case);
- improve the regulation of registered organisations and associations under the IR Act;
- more effectively regulate industrial agents who provide industrial relations services and represent parties in proceedings before the Commission and the State industrial courts;
- more closely align the powers of industrial inspectors under the IR Act with those of inspectors under the FW Act; and
- increase the maximum penalties for contravention of an industrial instrument, order of the Commission or statutory minimum condition of employment.
The draft Bill also proposes to:
- repeal the Minimum Conditions of Employment Act 1993 (MCE Act) and incorporate statutory minimum conditions of employment in the IR Act. This will provide employers and employees with a “one-stop-shop” for locating their employment obligations and entitlements. It will also update statutory minimum conditions of employment. Among other things, employees with a disability will be entitled to statutory minimum conditions of employment, employers will be prevented from making unreasonable deductions from employees’ pay, permanent employees will be entitled to take paid compassionate leave and employees will be required to notify their employer when they take personal leave;
- prohibit the engagement of children on unpaid trial work under the Children and Community Services Act 2004; and
- repeal the Coal Industry Tribunal of Western Australia Act 1992, the Conspiracy and Protection of Property Act of 1900 and the Labour Relations Reform Act 2002.