Changes to Fair Work Regulations


  Posted by Meghann Papa

On 26 June 2014 the Federal Government introduced the Fair Work Amendment (Protected Industrial Action) Regulation 2014 (the "Amendment Regulation"), which has changed industrial action laws within the Fair Work legislation. 

The introduction of the Amendment Regulation is the result of the ongoing bargaining dispute the AMOU, MUA and AIMPE has in Port Hedland, Western Australia, to prevent the closure of the port.

The Amendment Regulation gives the WA State Government and third parties, such as BHP Billiton and Fortescue Metals Group, the power to apply to the Fair Work Commission ("FWC") to suspend or terminate protected industrial action that is being engaged in, threatened, impending or probable, if they can prove the industrial action threatens to cause significant damage to the Australian economy. 

On 24 September 2014 the Greens moved to disallow the Amending Regulation in the Senate, with the support of the ALP and a number of Independent Senators.  However, the Palmer United Party voted with the Coalition which resulted in a 33-32 vote in favour of the Government.

Since the introduction of the Fair Work Act 2009 (the "Act"), all States and Territories, except Western Australia, referred their industrial relations powers to the Commonwealth for the purpose of creating a national system.  This meant that the WA Government was not able to make an application to the FWC to suspend or terminate protected industrial action.  However, the Amending Regulations now prescribes the Minister responsible for workplace relations matters in WA with the same powers that all other States and Territories have to suspend or terminate industrial action in that State.

Third parties, such as clients or contractors of your employer, have always been able to make an application to the FWC to terminate or suspend industrial action.   However, it did not apply to threatened protected industrial action, only industrial action that was actually being engaged in.  The Amendment Regulation now permits third parties to make an application to the FWC before industrial action has even been taken. 

Protected Industrial Action is a right employees have when negotiations for a new enterprise agreement with their employer become unsuccessful.  This Amendment Regulation is just another effort to prevent employees from exercising their right to fight for better workplace conditions.  However, if we stand united we can and will win!!