The Industrial Relations Act 2016 (Qld) (the Act) promotes collective bargaining between employees (and their representative unions) and employers, as the primary means by which wages and employment conditions are decided.
An employee’s modern employment conditions can be found in the Queensland Employment Standards (QES), modern awards and bargaining instruments. The QES are a set of minimum employment conditions for all employees.
Modern awards [link to fact sheet] set out employment conditions that apply to employees in specific industries or occupations (e.g. ambulance officers) and/or sectors, (e.g. white collar public sector workers).
A bargaining instrument allows employers and employees (and their unions) to negotiate employment conditions, beyond those contained in the QES and the relevant modern award, which reflect the circumstances of individual workplaces.
A bargaining instrument is a written agreement (a certified agreement or a bargaining award) about industrial matters relating to an employer and a group of or all employees of the employer.
An instrument may be made between an employer and either, one or more unions entitled to represent the employees in question, or, in certain circumstances, between an employer and the employees of the employer.
A ‘bargaining award’ is an award made under Chapter 4, Part 5 of the Act, and is not a ‘modern award’ under Chapter 3 of the Act.
In negotiating a bargaining instrument, the parties are required to negotiate in good faith. This includes such things as:
A negotiating party for a proposed bargaining instrument has a right to take industrial action in support of its claims.
The Queensland Industrial Relations Commission (QIRC) can help the parties reach agreement in difficult negotiations. To achieve this the QIRC may give advice or make recommendations to the parties about the conduct of negotiations.
If the parties have been negotiating and have tried to reduce the scope of the matters at issue, and the QIRC does not consider there is a reasonable likelihood of further negotiations resulting in the parties reaching agreement within a reasonable period, the QIRC may refer the matter to arbitration as a last resort.
The QIRC must be satisfied that a valid majority of the relevant employees employed at the time have been consulted and approved the proposed bargaining instrument.
The QIRC must be satisfied that the proposed bargaining instrument does not disadvantage the employees in relation to their modern employment conditions. The QIRC must also refuse to certify an instrument if it considers the proposed instrument contains a discriminatory provision.
The QIRC must ensure the agreement provides for equal remuneration for work of equal or comparable value in relation to the employees to be covered by the agreement.
For specific information contact your employer’s Human Resources or Industrial Relations area or your union.