Federal Election 2019 Policy Series – What Labor and the Coalition are offering on industrial relations

With the Federal election campaign past the half way mark, the Australian Labor Party (ALP) has made several promises in relation to amending industrial relations (IR) laws in Australia.

While the Coalition has made limited reference to the IR landscape in its election campaign so far, the ALP has pledged to:

  • expand and improve access to multi-employer bargaining, with an emphasis on low-paid sectors;
  • reverse the reduction in penalty rates for the hospitality industry;
  • provide the Fair Work Commission (FWC) with new powers which allow them to boost pay equity;
  • prevent the unilateral terminations of collective enterprise agreements at nominal expiry if it leads to a reduction in workers’ entitlements;
  • abolish the Australian Building and Construction Commission and the Registered Organisations Commission; and
  • introduce a requirement for the FWC to set a ‘living wage’ for the lowest paid workers at 60% of the median wage.

The overall structure of the IR system will remain the same under an ALP government – the Fair Work Act would not be replaced by an entirely new piece of legislation.

However, these policy announcements suggest that some important features contained therein will change significantly.

Conversely, current indications are that if the Coalition remain in power, it is unlikely we will see any significant change to the IR arena.

This article was written by Stella Gehrckens, Lawyer – Employment, Safety and Migration.