Four-yearly review of transport industry awards

Transport industry awards have been grouped together for the convenience of timetabling the formal proceedings that will commence on 2 December following submissions summarising the positions of parties to be filed on 25 November. 

The timetable issued by President Ross has tentatively listed Full Bench Hearings on exposure drafts of the awards to commence in early-mid March.

Unlike the 2012 award review process, which was aimed at correcting relatively minor irregularities, the four-yearly review provides an opportunity for the parties to press for significant changes to the awards.  Matters raised by parties in the 2012 review that were not successful because they were beyond the scope of the 2012 review or were not pressed can now be pursued with fresh material. 

Transport industry employer associations and the Transport Workers Union will mostly have material prepared for variations to the awards that they will be proposing and that the Commission will summarise following the initial conference proceeding on 2 December.  From that point parties will then be invited to comment and make submissions on the Commission generated exposure drafts of each award.

Importantly, the Commission and parties will have to work within the confines of s.134 of the Fair Work Act 2009 MODERN AWARD OBJECTIVES that will consider the following in making any changes to the awards:

• relative living standards and the needs of the low paid
• the need to encourage collective bargaining
• the need to promote social inclusion through increased workforce participation
• the need to promote flexible modern work practices and the efficient and productive performance of work
• the need to provide additional remuneration for:
– employees working overtime
– employees working unsocial, irregular or unpredictable hours
– employees working on weekends or public holidays
– employees working shifts
• the principle of equal remuneration for work of equal or comparable value
• the likely impact of any exercise of modern award powers on business, including on productivity, employment costs and the regulatory burden
• the need to ensure a simple, easy to understand, stable and sustainable modern award system for Australia that avoids unnecessary overlap of modern awards, and
• the likely impact of any exercise of modern award powers on employment growth, inflation and the sustainability, performance and competitiveness of the national economy.

This is the modern awards objective. From an employer perspective, the last three dot points of the modern award objective are critical to the outcome of the review process and align with present government policy on employment costs, regulatory burden and the need for a simple easy to understand and sustainable award structure.

Whilst the Commission must be satisfied that an increase in award minimum wages is justified by work value reasons as required by s.156 (3)(4) of the Act, this may not necessarily inhibit claims for additional remuneration by way of allowances or increased conditions of employment. These claims may be considered under dot point 5 of the above modern award objectives and will need to be countered by reasons relevant to government policy on employment costs and the competitiveness of the national economy.

The challenge for employer parties in reacting to any additional claims for allowances or benefits that will no doubt arise from union submissions to the review will be to consult and then coordinate their responses in a timely manner.

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