For everyone who has suffered through the last few years of the Enterprise Agreement Approval process in the Fair Work Commission, some good news turned up last week.
The Federal Government announced that it would “tweak” the Better Off Overall Test (popularly known as the BOOT) in a bid to make enterprise bargaining easier. This has got to get through the Parliament and then be signed into law by the Governor-General so it won’t happen overnight but the news is at least a positive.
Let’s be honest. The whole process of getting an EBA approved in the Fair Work Commission has become a contact sport. Parties are pummelled for what appears to be the most minor of perceived infractions. There was even a Fair Work Commission decision a few years ago (now known colloquially as the Peabody Decision) that threw out an entire agreement (which had been overwhelmingly voted up by the workers) because the employer had stapled the initiating notice to a bargaining rep appointment form. Apparently, the mortal sin of stapling was so serious the agreement had to be chucked out. Yes, I know, I can you hear you laughing but this was an actual decision of the Commission, Full Bench no less!
This is what parties in the workplaces of Australia have had to put up with in recent years. There has been no shortage of commentary in various journals and some mainstream newspapers about the situation. This in turn has led to blame shedding. Some say that the Fair Work Commission is only doing what the Federal Court has said it must do. Others say that the Fair Work Act itself is at fault.
It doesn’t really matter who’s fault it is. What we know for sure is that the current system is widely despised on both sides of the Employer/Union divide. It’s always refreshing when warring parties share a common viewpoint but I cannot imagine anyone, including members of the Fair Work Commission, could possibly be happy with the EBA process as it stands today.
Let’s await the changes proposed by the Government and see if things improve. The author of this blog remains ever the optimist.