Three important workplace relations Bills are before Parliament: the Fair Work Amendment (Proper Use of Worker Benefits) Bill 2017, the Fair Work Amendment (Repeal of 4 Yearly Reviews of Modern Awards and Other Measures) Bill 2017 and the Fair Work (Registered Organisations) Amendment (Ensuing Integrity) Bill 2017. The Bills are expected to be further debated when Parliament resumes in February 2018.

Fair Work Amendment (Proper Use of Worker Benefits) Bill 2017

This Bill would implement appropriate governance standards for employee entitlement funds such as construction industry redundancy funds. The Bill addresses the widespread, inappropriate current practice of unions deriving millions of dollars a year from money contributed by employers to employee entitlement funds for the benefit of their own employees.

The Bill also implements recommendation 47 of the Heydon Royal Commission by requiring that registered organisations (i.e. unions and employer associations) disclose to employers and employees the financial benefits (e.g. commissions) that they receive from income protection insurance and other products that they promote or arrange. Currently, millions of dollars per year flow to unions from very large, inappropriate commissions paid to them by insurance companies which offer substandard income protection insurance products at grossly inflated prices.

Ai Group made a detailed submission on the Bill on 25 October 2017, and appeared before the Senate Committee at a public hearing on 30 October 2017. The Bill addresses issues of concern that Ai Group has been pressing for over 15 years.

Fair Work Amendment (Repeal Of 4 Yearly Reviews Of Modern Awards And Other Measures) Bill 2017

This Bill would:

  • Abolish 4 yearly Reviews of Awards; and
  • Give the FWC more discretion to overlook minor procedural non-compliance in the enterprise agreement-making process, provided that the employees are unlikely to have been disadvantaged.

On 10 April 2017, Ai Group has made a detailed submission on the Bill to a Senate inquiry, expressing strong support for the Bill.

Fair Work (Registered Organisations) Amendment (Ensuring Integrity) Bill 2017

This Bill would:

  • Introduce a public interest test for amalgamations of registered organisations.
  • Expand the categories of ‘prescribed offence’ which lead to automatic disqualification of a person from acting as an official of a registered organisation, and allow the Federal Court to issue orders prohibiting officials of registered organisations from holding office in certain circumstances, including where they have contravened particular laws.
  • Allow the Federal Court to cancel the registration of an organisation on a range of grounds, and allow applications to be made to the Federal Court for other orders, including suspending the rights and privileges of an organisation.

The Bill, if passed in time, would make it more difficult for the proposed merger between the CFMEU, MUA and TCFUA to proceed.

On 15 September 2017, Ai Group made a submission to the Senate Committee expressing support for the Bill, and Ai Group appeared before the Committee at a public hearing on 28 September 2017.

If you would like more information about the proposed legislative amendments, please contact Ai Group’s Workplace Advice Service on 1300 55 66 77.

Alternatively, if you would like assistance in conducting negotiations with unions, please contact your local employment, workplace and industrial lawyer in Sydney, Newcastle, Wollongong, Melbourne or Brisbane or email Ai Group Workplace Lawyers at info@aigroupworkplacelawyers.com.au.

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