15 Oct 2015

Stalled greenfields agreements get a boost with passage of Fair Work Act amendments

An important step towards greater workplace flexibility on major projects, including mines, has been taken with the passage of the Federal Government's Fair Work Amendment Bill 2014.

There's been concern amongst employers, particularly in the resource sector, that the Fair Work Act did not have an effective means to break any deadlock on negotiations for greenfields agreements.

The changes, passed by the Senate on Tuesday, extend good faith bargaining obligations to greenfields negotiations, and will now allow the Fair Work Commission to make a determination if negotiations have been stalled for six months.

Unions will also no longer be able to strike before genuine bargaining has commenced.

This is the first really important reform of workplace law by the Coalition Government, but the Bill as passed does not contain all the changes the Government had hoped to introduce in it, including changes to right of entry and individual flexibility agreements. These were removed as part of the deal with the cross-bench senators to get the Bill passed. As a result, the amended Bill will need to be approved by the House of Representatives before it is assented to and the changes then come into effect the day after assent.

What employers should do now: it's now worth reviewing your industrial strategy and how you get the most value from negotiations.

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Clayton Utz communications are intended to provide commentary and general information. They should not be relied upon as legal advice. Formal legal advice should be sought in particular transactions or on matters of interest arising from this communication. Persons listed may not be admitted in all States and Territories.