Overview of Labor policy on Industrial Relations April 2007

The Labor Party has released some significant detail of the policy it intends to take to the Federal Elections this year.

The following is a brief analysis of the main points with some comparison to the current WorkChoices legislation:


1. Federal System


Labor will keep the Federal System for private business and will encourage the States to handover all of their remaining powers.


Labor will not revert to the old system of State and federal powers. All businesses that are currently bound by WorkChoices will remain bound under this policy. The States may decide to handover their powers to a Federal Labor Government in which case all business would be covered by federal law.

2. AWAs Abolished


Labor will abolish all individual workplace agreements (AWAs).


  • Although not stipulated, it is unlikely that this will be retrospective. This will mean that for award employees, they will either be covered by the award or may bargain collectively for an enterprise agreement
  • The “common law contract” will still be an option for business

3. Guaranteed Conditions Increased


Labor will return a number of guaranteed award conditions including penalty rates, overtime and public holiday pa


There are no details of this however it would seem that Labor will be guaranteeing various conditions as those above. The current 5 guaranteed conditions currently are minimum rates of pay, annual leave, personal leave, parental leave and maximum 38 hour week.

Currently, an employer may choose not to offer conditions such as penalty rates, overtime and public holiday pay for new employees.(There are others as well and more detail of what these are will be required before we can provide a deeper analysis).

4. Unfair Dismissal


Labor will re-introduce unfair dismissal laws for all business. However there are a number of exemptions.

For Business with 15 employees or less there will be an exemption where the employee has worked for less than 12 months.

For all other businesses, there will be an exemption where the employee has worked for less than 6 months.

A “Fair Dismissal Code” will be introduced to assist small business to comply with the laws.

Where compliance occurs this would be a valid defence to any claim.


Labor has sought to define small business at 15 employees or less. Whilst small business will be subject to unfair dismissal laws it will have some assistance by the one year service exemption and the “Code defence”.

For employers with between 16 and 100 employees the only exemption will be where the employee has only been employed for 6 months or less. This is the current position for employers with more than 100 employers and these employers will continue to get that exemption.

Labor has also indicated that measures will be taken to ensure a speedy resolution of the dispute.

5. Industrial Action


Labor will

  • Restrict industrial action to bargaining periods in pursuit of a collective agreement and only after “genuine good faith bargaining”
  • Make secret ballots compulsory before industrial action.
  • Outlaw strike pay


This policy is encouraging to business who perhaps feared that the power of the union would be significantly increased in this area. However the detail of this policy will require close scrutiny to examine how much easier industrial action will be for employees.

Further Details

We will keep you informed as further details of each party’s policy emerges.

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