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Flight to Federal system continues

DESPITE the release of the WA Government’s version of individual workplace contracts, the predominant feeling is that businesses are better off under the Federal industrial relations system.

Last week the Government proclaimed measures that repealed the Workplace Agreements Act and introduced Employer-Employee Agreements.

Registered workplace agreements will now have a maximum of 12 months to run.

Industrial relations experts and unionists agree the EEAs will not be a workable option.

Freehills national industrial relations practise head Russell Allen said EEAs were not something he would recommend while there was a better alternative – Federal Australian Workplace Agreements.

“You can offer employment on the basis of signing an AWA but you’re not allowed to do that with an EEA,” he said.

“However, there are likely to be some businesses that go to EEAs because they have no other option.”

Chamber of Commerce and Industry director employee relations Bruce Williams said employers that had been using workplace agreements needed to review their employment arrangements.

“Look at all of your options and get some advice,” he said.

“However, if you want to maintain an independent contract environment then AWAs are your only option.

“EEAs have too much complexity and will not provide certainty.”

One of the concerns with EEAs is that they can be invalid if just one employee chooses to opt for a collective agreement.

Unions WA secretary Stephanie Mayman said EEAs were not required.

“There is already a common law right for an employee to take an individual contract so the EEAs are not a necessary step,” she said.

“This is the dawning of a new era for workers in WA. Primacy has been returned in legislation to the primacy of the collective.”

Ms Mayman said she had seen some positive things emerging from talks and negotiations between employers and unions.

She said one of Unions WA’s main focuses would be award modernisation.

Combined Small Business Alliance CEO Oliver Moon said the new IR system would be a disaster for small businesses.

“We’ll be looking at what happens and documenting this Government’s IR track record,” he said.

“Most small business owners don’t countenance any outside interference in the way they run their business.

“There is a clause within Federal agreements that allows the business to exclude the effects of State legislation and that will help stop any union right-of-entry problems.”

The Coalition of Business Associations, an organisation of major business organisations formed to protest the new IR regime is in a hiatus.

However, its spokesman Peter Fitzpatrick said it would be keeping a close eye on the developments.

“We made our big play to get our views to the Government – it largely ignored them – and now we’re getting on with the job,” he said.

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