Backlog on fairness test

by 18 Sep 2007

THE WORKPLACE Authority has checked only one in 10 Australian Workplace Agreements since the introduction of the Federal Government’s fairness test in early-May this year.

A government report found that there are lengthy delays in the operation of the fairness test, with a backlog of more than 110,000 workers who are yet to have their workplace agreements checked.

Of the 123,100 workplace agreements lodged in the four months since the introduction of the fairness test, only 12,749 assessments have been finalised.

The statistics, which cover agreements lodged between 7 May and 31 August, found most agreements lodged with the Workplace Authority passed the fairness test.

Only 9 per cent were rejected because they failed the test, which requires that employees to be compensated for any cuts to a number of protected award conditions.

Where agreements failed the test, employers were given 14 days to fix them.

The report also found that five agreements ceased to operate because the changes needed to pass the fairness test were not made, so the employees went back to the entitlements they would have received, as if the agreement had never been made.

“I want to remind employers that if their agreement doesn’t meet the requirements of the fairness test they will need to change it or it will cease to operate.

“They will also need to pay whatever back pay is owing to their employees,” Workplace Authority director Barbara Bennett said.

People should be cautious about drawing anything more than preliminary conclusions from the statistics as they are early figures, according to Bennett.

“The figures also show a need to continue to educate employers and employees on agreement-making and the requirements of the fairness test.”

ACTU secretary Jeff Lawrence said the massive backlog and long delay in checking AWAs confirmed that the fairness test is a farce.

“There is a huge backlog with workers waiting more than four months to have their agreements checked and a disturbingly high number of workers whose boss is still trying to rip them off by removing their penalty rates, overtime pay, shift loadings and other award conditions,”he said.

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