Can your employer refuse to bargain?

If your boss refuses to bargain for an agreement at all, the union can apply to Fair Work Australia (FWA) for a ‘majority support determination’. FWA can decide that a majority of employees want to bargain with their employer, and order the company to start negotiations.

What if the employer is not bargaining fairly?

The Fair Work laws require all parties engaged in bargaining (including unions) to act in good faith. This means that unions and employers must:

  • Attend and participate in meetings at reasonable times
  • Disclose relevant information (other than commercial-in-confidence or commercially sensitive information) in a timely manner
  • Respond to proposals in a timely fashion
  • Give genuine consideration to the proposals of other parties, and provide reasons for responses and
  • Refrain from capricious or unfair conduct that undermines freedom of association or collective bargaining.

If the employer fails to do this, the union can ask FWA to issue a bargaining order.

Your rights to be heard and represented

From 1 January, all employees will have new rights to be consulted and represented at work, and new protections against unfair treatment.

It will be illegal to disadvantage anyone for joining a union or being active in their union.

Awards and enterprise  agreements will provide for consultation and representation at work, and workers will have better access to advice because employers will no longer be able to stop union representatives coming into the workplace to talk to members.

If your employer refuses to bargain, the union can ask Fair Work Australia to issue a bargaining order.

Meet the new umpires

New authorities will replace most of the current industrial relations bodies such as the Australian Industrial Relations Commission to safeguard workers’ rights.

Fair Work Australia (FWA) will be independent of Government and will:

  • Set and adjust award wages and make minimum wage orders
  • Regularly review and vary awards
  • Make bargaining orders and, in limited circumstances, make workplace determinations settling bargaining disputes
  • Supervise the taking of industrial action
  • Approve agreements
  • Conciliate and (in limited cases) arbitrate disputes
  • Deal with disputes about unions’ right of entry
  • Determine unfair dismissal claims.

The Office of the Fair Work Ombudsman will take over the work of the Workplace Ombudsman. The Office will be responsible for providing information and education and for enforcing the new laws. Fair Work inspectors will be able to inspect documents and premises and prosecute breaches of the law.

Fair Work Divisions of the Federal Court and the Federal Magistrates Court will determine claims relating to breaches of the ‘safety net’ national employment standards, awards, agreements and workplace rights.