New Employment Minister Michaelia Cash has helped secure the Turnbull Government’s first major legislative victory on workplace laws, with the Senate yesterday passing amendments to the Fair Work Act’s “strike first, talk later” loophole – as well as making improvements to the greenfields agreement making arrangements.
Whilst the changes fall short of the full range of reforms originally earmarked in the Fair Work Amendment Bill, it is nonetheless a significant step in the right direction.
The changes to the Fair Work Act’s protected industrial action provisions are particularly important, as it ensures that the “strike first, talk later” loophole created by the infamous JJ Richards decision will belatedly be addressed.
Employers will now have certainty that protected action will not be available to employees (and their union representatives) unless either the employer has agreed to negotiate, or the Fair Work Commission is satisfied that a majority of employees that would be covered by the Agreement wish to negotiate – and there has subsequently been a genuine attempt to reach agreement.
The Coalition and crossbench senators Glenn Lazarus, John Madigan, Dio Wang, Nick Xenophon, Bob Day, David Leyonhjelm and Ricky Muir voted in favour of the amended Bill to provide its passage, providing a three vote majority. It was opposed by Labor, the Greens and Jacqui Lambie. If the Turnbull Government accepts the amendments, the Bill will go back to a vote in the House of Representatives.
Commenting following the vote, Senator Cash is quoted in The Australian as stating:
“I applaud the co-operation and reasoned approach taken by the crossbench senators and look forward to maintaining this constructive approach on future legislation”.
Master Builders welcomes the passage of these necessary reforms through the Senate. We call upon the crossbench senators to take the same approach towards approving legislative reforms necessary to introduce the rule of law to the building and construction industry, including by supporting the passage of the Bill to re-establish the ABCC.