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Workplace agreements letter sparks IR storm

THE WA Government has released a letter notifying businesses of the cessation of workplace agreements, even though its industrial relations legislation has not been introduced into Parliament.

Some sections of the IR community have slammed the letter, saying it is premature and aimed at reducing demand for workplace agreements.

The letter, from acting commissioner of workplace agreements Jeff Radisich says the Government “intends, during this financial year, to pass legislation that will abolish the workplace agreements system” and outlines what will happen

next.

The Government has said it intends move to Employee-Employer Agreements – a form of work-place agreement underpinned by the relevant industry Award.

But legislation to make these changes is yet to be introduced to Parliament.

A spokesman for Consumer and Employment Protection Minister John Kobelke said the legislation was in the final stages of drafting and the Government was aiming to have it introduced to Parliament by the end of this year.

“Confidential discussions with key stakeholders will be held in the very near future,” he said.

IR consultancy Workplace Agreements managing director Tony Thompson said the letter was premature because workplace agreements were still law.

“I’m in no doubt that this letter is aimed at influencing the workplace agreements business and reducing the number of companies that will be taking them on,” Mr Thompson said.

Deacons Lawyers senior associate Alistair Salmon said the letter was forewarning employers.

“But the change to the

legislation could not come at a worse time for business,” Mr Salmon said.

“Businesses, particularly in the hospitality and tourism industries are facing tough times and now this change is coming that is going to add considerably to their labour costs.”

Mr Radisich said he had sent out the letter to inform businesses that the legislation was coming up and to let them know what was going to happen.

The WA Industrial Relations Commission has also signalled its intentions.

It recently arbitrated a case between BHP-Billiton and 470 workers at its Pilbara operation who did not want to go onto individual contracts.

The workers won a 20 per cent pay increase and a 6 per cent boost to super contributions, while BHPB had some increased flexibility put into the Award.

Blake Dawson Waldron partner David Parker said the WAIRC had shown it was prepared to assert its role as an arbitrator where employers and unions could not reach agreement.

“There is a clear message that arbitrated wage increases will not be granted unless they can be justified by reference to structural changes that improve productivity and efficiency,” Mr Parker said.

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