Employment LawAustralian Workplace Agreements Explained

Australian Workplace Agreements Explained

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A Workplace Agreement (Australian AWA) is an individual written agreement of terms and conditions of employment between an employer and employee and or employees. 

Except for Occupational Health and safety, Workers’ Compensation or training arrangements an Workplace Agreement can override employment conditions in state or territory laws, but an Australian Workplace Agreement must meet the Australian Fair Pay and Conditions Standard. 

Australian Workplace Agreements which fail the test may still be registered if it is in the public interest to do so. A workplace may be covered by an existing enterprise agreement specifying conditions above the award, which may mean that the Workplace Agreement is a reduction in standard workplace conditions. 

On March 27th 2006 new arrangements for workplace agreements came into effect which meant that different workplace agreement procedures had to be followed.

When the Liberal Federal Government, lead by John Howard announced the new reforms dealing with new Workplace Agreements and work conditions, Unions slammed the introduction of a system, claiming that thousands of unskilled and skilled workers Australia wide would be sacked on the spot, with no penalties and rights, once available through the old Industrial tribunal system. 

Conversations in workplace lunchrooms following the Federal Government’s decision to introduce the new WorkPlace Agreement in 2006 lead to fears of mass sackings, loss of wages and terms and conditions of employment that most workers were not happy to comply with. 

These fears were realized in late March, when workers at a regional meat works were sacked on the spot and replaced by imported, cheaper labour until the retrenched workers agreed to a new and much less favorable Workplace Agreement. 

A company in South Australia immediately sacked without notice 2 skilled workers with many years experience, giving no reason for their retrenchment, except for claiming that these employees were no longer required. 

It is early days for the new Australian Industrial Workplace system, but signs of worker unrest and confusion are popping up in nearly every workplace. 

The workers most affected by the new system are unskilled and semi-skilled labour. Employees that can be are now replaced more regularly each time a company is restructured or streamlined. 

Wages, work conditions, except Occupational Health & Safety can now be negotiated between employees and the employer. But Union officials say that this system is bound to lead to bullying by some employers as they introduce an agreement of “either take what we offer or leave”. 

Time will tell what will happen in the Australian workplace, but disturbing signs are already making the Federal and State Governments move quickly to amend and in some cases change many Workplace Policies.

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