Australia’s workplace relations system includes a range of regulation about collective employee issues, commonly thought of as industrial relations.
We deal with this specialised area, which involves issues such as:
- Enterprise bargaining
- Unprotected industrial action
- Protected action
- Right of union entry
- Collective disputes under dispute procedures in Awards and Enterprise Agreements
- Award reviews
Our Partners have been involved in enterprise bargaining since it became widely available in the early 1990s. Since that time, we have worked with a wide range of clients in various industries, helping them to navigate the various permutations of the enterprise bargaining landscape. This area of practice requires knowledge of the industrial parties, an understanding of commercial realities, as well as the laws providing guideposts/hurdles to what is possible. The firm and our Partners have assisted clients to develop innovative enterprise agreements in the resources sector, heavy manufacturing, food and other manufacturing, construction, retail, hospitality, not-for-profit, education and a range of other sectors.
Protected and unprotected industrial action is far less common today and when it occurs it is usually associated with enterprise bargaining. We recognise addressing it must be factored into enterprise bargaining planning and we regularly advise in this area. Further, when industrial action occurs, we are experienced in promptly responding and ensuring the legal, industrial and communications responses are aligned.
Employers with an unmediated relationship with their employees often are able to achieve productive cultures that can be disrupted by modern union organising tactics. Our clients fully accept freedom of association, but also recognise disinformation can be used to disrupt their workplace cultures. Poorly managed entry to sites can impact cultures. Therefore, being able to access prompt and accurate advice in relation to right of entry is very important. We advise clients on these issues very regularly.
Disputes pursued through dispute resolution provisions of Awards and enterprise agreements have become less common, but still arise. A holistic approach to addressing proceedings commenced in this way is important and we are well experienced in representing employers before the Fair Work Commission in these types of matters.
The four yearly Award review process is coming to an end and is not intended to reoccur, at least in its current wholesale form. Nevertheless, award variation applications will be made from time to time and should be far more targeted. The firm and our Partners have been involved in representing industry bodies and other clients in Award review proceedings for decades. Our experience includes involvement in Modern award reviews and other award variation matters, from before modern awards came into being, in the creation of the modern awards and in one of the most important recent award variation cases determined thus far (Appeal by Restaurant and Catering Association of Victoria  FWCFB 1996 (14 May 2014)).
On top of our advice and representation in specific matters, through publications, podcasts, webinars and client seminars, we keep our clients up to date with the various issues in industrial relations and wider employment law issues.
Prof Andrew Stewart