Agreements often win-win: OEA

A recent report by Workplace Agree-ments Commissioner Bob Cooper indicated that 53 per cent of workers on agreements received an ordinary wage rate higher than the award, with 7 per cent receiving a rate equal to the award.

The report also indicated that 25 per cent of employees have a lower ordinary wage than the relevant award, but Mr Cooper said this had to be considered with other factors.

“75 per cent of these are in industries such as supermarkets, grocery stores, cafes and restaurants, cleaning and security,” he said.

“Many of the employees in these industries are casual and the report indicates that an opportunity for casuals to work extra hours without penalty rates could lead to a higher weekly wage outcome.

“64 per cent of employers of casuals said a workplace agreement enabled extra hours of work.”

The report indicated that 19 per cent of the 90 per cent of workplace agreements registered in the sample had productivity improvements including performance pay and profit sharing.

“In our communication with the parties, we advise that when their agreement is registered it replaces the relevant award,” Mr Cooper said.

“Most people will not sign an agreement where it provides a lesser outcome than the award or other arrangement that currently applies to them.

“However, the system does enable employees to agree to something less, provided it is a genuine agreement and is not subject to threats and intimidation.

“It is our experience that some people will take into account other benefits outside what the award caters for such as time off, flexible hours and even local perks.

“These are in the minority but the system is unique in Australia in allowing this degree of agreement,” Mr Cooper said.

Office of the Employment Advocate Bruce Kingston said workplace agreements, both state and federal, were creating administrative ease for employers and often led to win-win situations.

“To cite an example, employees of a cleaning company had concerns they had to work a minimum engagement time of three or four hours,” he said.

“This suited neither the employer nor the employees, but they were able to use an AWA to change the minimum engagement to, say, two hours because that was the average length of time for individual jobs.”

Mr Cooper said a significant number of workplace agreements were offered as a condition of employment.

“This may occur because existing employees have moved to agreements and the business has restructured operations in adopting the new arrangement,” he said. “Offering the award to new employees may not seem viable. It is not intimidation because the prospective employee has not been threatened with the loss of an existing right.”

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