Andrew Wilkie (Independent – Denison) introduced a bill in the House of Representatives yesterday to amend the Fair Work Act so that the FW Commission cannot cancel the effect of expired enterprise agreements. Mr Wilkie pointed to mining companies using the commission’s present power to reduce wages and conditions. But he also spoke at length on last month’s FWC ruling that empowered Murdoch University to use “the nuclear option” and the concerns of University of Tasmania staff, in his electorate, who are “under the shadow of an expired agreement,” and the resulting “terrible power imbalance”.
The bill was seconded by Greens MP Adam Bandt, who with Mr Wilkie is well-regarded by the National Tertiary Education Union who has called for changes to the FW Act to prevent the Commission cancelling conditions under expired agreements.
Getting the proposal through parliament will require Labor support, which should not be impossible. Opposition employment and workplace relations spokesman Brendan O’Connor says Labor in government will, “limit capacity to terminate agreements, in order to redress the imbalance in bargaining power between workers, their unions.” But why wait for an election? Unless of course it is not such a high priority. It was Mr Wilkie’s turn to ask the Independents’ question in Reps QT yesterday but he used it to ask about welfare payments.