The passage of federal workplace relations reforms, which will enable companies to bypass negotiations with unions in greenfields agreements, has been welcomed by industry lobby groups.
Reforms to the Fair Work Act were recently passed through the Senate thanks to agreement to amendments supported by crossbench senators Nick Xenophon, Bob Day, Glenn Lazarus, Ricky Muir and Zhenya Wang.
The Fair Work Act Amendment Bill (2014) will provide an alternative mechanism for pushing workplace labour contracts through in the event that negotiations stall between companies and unions.
In the event that a greenfields agreement cannot be made after six months of negotiations (amended from three months), power of arbitration will be handed to the Fair Work Commission.
The Australian Mines and Metals Association executive director Scott Barklamb congratulated the crossbench senators who voted for the amended bill, and said it showed they were willing to tackle “fundamental problems” with workplace relations legislation.
“Employers will now have a mechanism to progress new project agreements when bargaining with trade unions stalls, while also ensuring employees are not disadvantaged,” he said.
“We also welcome the Senate voting to close a loophole in the bargaining system that allows unions to take strike action before genuine bargaining has commenced.”
Barklamb said the passage of the bill was the “first step” in overhauling the Fair Work Act.
Senator Jacqui Lambie was the only Senate crossbencher to vote against the Bill together with Labor and the Greens.
Negotiations over amendments to the bill enabled the retention of union right-of-entry rules, which was welcomed by union representatives.