- On 4 September 2017, the Senate voted to expanded the Fair Work Ombudsman’s investigative powers, while imposing limits on the types of matters it can examine. The Opposition’s amendments to the Fair Work Amendment (Protecting Vulnerable Workers) Bill 2017, still enable the FWO to exercise coercive powers with respect to gathering evidence of breaches, but these powers are subject to a number of strong protections for individuals including supervision by the Administrative Appeals Tribunal and Commonwealth Ombudsman. Labor also successfully moved amendments to reverse the onus of proof in claims for unpaid wages where the employer has not produced wages slips or employment records. The new laws will apply from the day after the Bill receives royal assent, except for the new franchisor and holding company liability which will start six weeks later.
For further information on these new laws, click here.
- The McGowan government has announced a significant increase in penalties under our existing Occupational Health and Safety legislation, to reflect the penalties proposed in the work health and safety laws in other states and territories. The Government’s objective is to demonstrate the seriousness of ensuring safety in the workplace. In doing so, Western Australia takes another step closer to adopting (its own version of) the National Model WHS laws. Aside from Victoria, Western Australia is currently the only State who has not adopted the Model laws. To view McGowan’s media statement, click here.
- Equal Pay Day was held nationally on 4 September 2017. Equal Pay Day focuses on bridging the gender pay gap. Events and seminars were held around the Country, with a particular focus on female retirees and the impact of lower superannuation entitlements for older women. As advocacy for issues of equal pay and gender inequality advances, Australia’s National gender pay gap is slowly improving. The gender pay gap is currently 15.3%.
- Updated versions of all Fair Work Commission Benchbooks have recently been published. The updated versions reflect recent legislative changes, including changes to the high income threshold, and the amount payable for pecuniary penalties. The objective of the Commission’s benchbooks is to provide plain language guides to the Fair Work legislation and are designed to help parties prepare material for matters before the Commission. To view these benchbooks, click here.
- The Union Amalgamation – Merger is a step closer
In an application lodged on 20 June 2017, the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU), the Maritime Union of Australia (MUA) and Textile, Clothing and Footwear Union of Australia (TCFUA) jointly applied under section 44(1) of the Fair Work (Registered Organisations) Act 2009 (RO Act), seeking approval for the amalgamation to go to ballot. The hearing was heard on 4 August 2017 (Melbourne) and 17 August 2017 (Sydney), and the decision published on 31 August 2017.
The proposed name of the amalgamated organisation is the Construction, Forestry, Maritime, Mining and Energy Union (CFMMEU).
The Deputy President of the Fair Work Commission approved the submission of the proposed amalgamation to ballot, exempted the CFMEU from the requirement that a ballot of its members be held in relation to the proposed amalgamation and approved that the amalgamation to ballot is not conducted under section 65 of the RO Act. The ballot will commence on 28 September 2017 and close on 23 November 2017.
To view this decision, click here.