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Australia: Industrial relations

Original and updating authors: Shana Schreier-Joffe, Dean Tolkin, Lisa Aguilar and Francesca Snyder, Keypoint Law

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  • A statutory national workplace relations system covers much of the workforce, dealing with matters such as collective bargaining and other ways of setting pay and conditions, freedom of association and industrial action. (See General)
  • Employees' rights to join and be represented by trade unions, and participate in union activities, have statutory protection, while registered trade unions have various entitlements. (See Trade unions)
  • Employees in most industries (except certain high-income employees) are covered by "modern awards", which are legally binding instruments made by the Fair Work Commission, setting minimum terms and conditions of employment. (See Modern awards)
  • Enterprise agreements (negotiated at single-enterprise or multi-enterprise level) are the main form of collective agreement, and their content is subject to various statutory rules. (See Enterprise agreements)
  • Collective bargaining over enterprise agreements is generally voluntary but the process is subject to various statutory rules, including a requirement to bargain in good faith. (See Collective bargaining)
  • Employers are under no general statutory obligation to inform and/or consult employees or their representatives, except on certain specific matters, but modern awards and enterprise agreements provide for information and consultation on workplace change and working hours. (See Informing and consulting employees - general)
  • As a result of recently introduced legislative amendments, the Fair Work Commission (FWC) has new powers to correct errors in enterprise agreements on its own initiative or on application by an employer, employee or a union which is included in the respective enterprise agreement. (See Enterprise agreements)
  • Employers have various information and consultation obligations if they decide to dismiss 15 or more employees for reasons of an economic, technological, structural or similar nature. (See Informing and consulting prior to redundancies)
  • Employers have no specific statutory obligation to inform and/or consult employees about planned business transfers. (See Informing and consulting prior to transfers)
  • Only certain industrial action in relation to collective bargaining over single-enterprise agreements is lawful, and action by employees generally requires majority support in a ballot. (See Industrial action)