The current system of comprehensive state awards should be abandoned in favour of a set of “state employment standards”, two major WA employer groups – the Aust Hotels Assoc (AHA) WA branch and the WA Chamber of Commerce & Industry – have argued in submissions to the review of the WA IR system. The AHA submission argued the state award system should be abolished but, if retained, awards should include quantified or no increased costs to employers; reduce inflexibilities in the current award structure; provide flexibilities in the workplace; and review penalty and overtime structures and simplify them into “state employment standards” to provide an “economically sustainable” safety net. The AHA suggested the employment standards comprise “15 or 20” main entitlements for all WA employees in non-constitutional corporations. It suggested harmonising four key awards covering most hospitality businesses – hotel and tavern workers; restaurant, tearoom and catering workers; motel, hostel, service flats and boarding house workers; and club workers – into a single “WA hospitality award”. The amalgamated award’s entitlements – such as rostering, overtime, hours of work and the like – should then be “adapted to modern times to ensure flexibility within the workforce and by employees”, the AHA said. Given the hospitality industry’s core hours were arguably 24 hours a day, seven days a week, “why should high penalties apply” for those working those hours, it asked. The AHA also called for an unfair dismissal exemption for all businesses in the state system until employees had served a 12-month qualifying period, plus an exemption for “operational reasons”, as included under Work Choices. Small businesses should be exempt from unfair dismissal and would be defined as those employing 25 people or less, it said. On the subject of agreement making in the state system, the AHA said employers should be able to negotiate directly with employees for individual or collective agreements.
Disband the WA IRC, says WACCI
The WA Chamber of Commerce & Industry (WA CCI) would prefer the WA Govt to refer its IR powers to the Commonwealth but, failing that, it should disband the WA IRC, according to its submission to the review of the state IR system. WA CCI estimated 20% to 30% of the WA workforce was in the state system and up to 16% was employed in state govt. In recent years, there had been a “steady decline” in state govt employees using the WA IRC, and the cmn and the WA Industrial Magistrates Court had a “negligible” role in relation to unincorporated businesses, it said. Instead of retaining the WA IRC, the recently established Public Sector Cmn should take responsibility for public sector IR/employment matters; and a WA Magistrates Court division should determine private sector IR matters that currently went to the Industrial Magistrates Court, it said. The state govt could establish a new “employment disputes prevention and mediation tribunal”. It would have no conciliation and arbitration powers, but parties could empower it to determine disputes. In other recommendations to the review, WA CCI argued:
- the small business cut-off for unfair dismissal should be less than 20 full-time
- union right of entry should be subject to 48 hours’ written notice, with
access only during specified breaks and to members only;
- there should be no state registration process for unions, only federal
registration under the Fair Work Act; and
- the WA IRC should no longer set minimum wages, which should be automatically
indexed to CPI.
The review of the WA IR system by Blake Dawson partner Steven Amendola will be finalised later this year. View all submissions to the review.
Source: Thomson Reuters Workforce news, edition 1701.
Subscribers to the Workforce news service received this story on October 12,