There's been a lot of talk in the past couple of week's about the Federal Government's Secure Jobs, Better Pay bill. So what's in it, and why does it matter?
The recent Jobs and Skills Summit in Canberra saw representatives of the business community, state governments, civil society, disability groups and the trade union movement come together to discuss the country’s employment and training challenges.
The RTBU was represented at the Summit by National Secretary Mark Diamond.
A major theme of the summit was finding ways to unlock pay better rises so that wages can keep up with the rising cost of living.
The Summit came up with 36 recommendations for the Federal Government to progress immediately, and a similar number of longer-term recommendations for the Federal Government to commence work.
Importantly, for RTBU Members, these initiatives also included several things that our Union has been campaigning for.
One of the biggest wins for us was the commitment to fix the flaw in the Fair Work Act which allows to tear up enterprise agreements at the drop of a hat
RTBU members were the first to suffer from this flaw when Aurizon ripped up a dozen agreements in 2016. More recently, the Premier of NSW has threatened to tear up Enterprise Agreements for workers at Sydney Trains and NSW Trains
Many of the outcomes of the Summit are being progressed through amendments to the Fair Work Act, which are about to be presented to Federal Parliament
The amendments are contained within the Secure Jobs, Better Pay Bill, which will be the first tranche of the Albanese Labor Government’s workplace relations reforms.
SO WHAT’S IN THE BILL?
The Secure Jobs, Better Pay Bill will improve the workplace relations framework by:
- Restoring fairness and integrity to workplace relations institutions by abolishing the Australian Building and Construction Commission so that the Fair Work Ombudsman is the workplace relations regulator for the building and construction industry and abolishing the Registered Organisations Commission and transferring its functions to the General Manager of the Fair Work Commission.
- Boosting bargaining by removing unnecessary complexity, ensuring bargaining is genuine, fair and conducted in good faith, and making the better off overall test simple, flexible and fair.
- Encouraging bargaining for single enterprise agreements by making it easier to bargain and simplifying approval requirements.
- Remove unnecessary limitations on access to the low-paid bargaining stream and the single-interest employer authorisation stream; and provide enhanced access to Fair Work Commission support for employees and their employers who require assistance to bargain. (This means making it easier to undertake multi-employer bargaining in some industries.)
- Restoring balance and fairness to the system by ensuring the process for agreement terminations is fit for purpose and fair, and sunsetting ‘zombie agreements’.
- Improving job security and gender equity by including both concepts in the objects of the FW Act, limiting the use of fixed term contracts, introducing a statutory equal remuneration principle and prohibiting pay secrecy clauses.
- Improving workplace conditions and protections by providing stronger access to flexible working arrangements, stronger protections for workers, including victim survivors of sexual harassment, and enhancing small claims procedures to enable unpaid entitlement recovery.
- Updating the workers’ compensation presumptive liability provisions for firefighters in the Safety, Rehabilitation and Compensation Act 1988 (SRC Act).
WHAT HAPPENS NEXT?
The bill is due to be presented to parliament shortly, but it is expected to face opposition in the Senate. The fate of the bill will lie in the hands of The Greens and the Crossbench Senators, and we expect that big business will weigh in heavily to water down the bill as much as they can.