Chronology of fair work: background, events and related legislation

Updated 15 May 2012

PDF version [835 KB]

Steve O’Neill
Economics Section 


Fashioning Fair Work

Many commentators reviewing the genesis of the Fair Work legislation have emphasised the importance of the thorough constitutional break from the conciliation and arbitration power to the corporations power entailed in the Work Choices[1] legislation of 2005; a change placed on the national political agenda by the Hon Peter Reith some years earlier.[2] The chronology below commences with the Australian Council of Trade Unions’ (ACTU) 2006 report of its overseas delegation reviewing international bargaining systems.[3] The then ACTU Secretary Greg Combet reflected at the launch of the delegation’s report, that a potential endorsement of Work Choices’ constitutional basis by the High Court would prompt the national union movement to have an incoming Australian Labor Party (ALP) administration utilise the new constitutional base for its industrial legislation; as he put it:

If the corporations power is available, I want people to be under no misapprehension at all, we are going to support a future Labor government to use it.[4]

With the states’ High Court challenge to the Work Choices legislation proving unsuccessful, commentators such as industrial editor Ralph Grayden observed that the Howard Government’s workplace legislation had rewritten the relationship between the Commonwealth and the states. As Grayden put it, the Howard Government reforms put industrial relations ‘at the very heart of national debate, and divided a nation in the process’. Nevertheless, with the structural change to the constitutional underpinning of federal labour law upheld, he surmised that a future ALP Government would refashion Work Choices:

What Prime Minister Rudd will attempt to do is to iron out the most draconian and unpalatable aspects of Work Choices while still preserving its underlying assumptions: that industrial relations policy should be used to create a flexible, productive and strike-free workforce … Perhaps, though, the most important consistency between the Rudd and Howard eras will be the belief that the best place to supervise industrial relations is at the federal level. Although, in 2006, state Labor governments challenged the constitutionality of the federal IR takeover, the new (ALP) government has pledged to keep it the way it is.[5]

Similarly, labour lawyers Peter Punch and Mick Sheils doubted that there would be a reversion to the federal and state systems which had characterised Australian industrial relations for a century or more and that instead Australian employers would benefit from simplification and unification of industrial systems:

The (ALP) government’s policy seeks to revert or substantially modify some important aspects of the Work Choices regime, but there is nothing in the policy to suggest that there will be a reversion to the traditional federal and state industrial relations systems that prevailed prior to Work Choices. Importantly, the government intends to build on the ‘breakthrough’ to a national industrial relations system that forms an essential feature of the Work Choices system … all employees in the private sector would be embraced by the national system. The establishment of such a structure will require a measure of cooperation from the state governments … All employers would benefit from a simple structure which is easily understood and applied.[6]

As the first step of bringing such an industrial relations system into place, transitional legislation amending the Workplace Relations Act was introduced to the Parliament in February 2008. It prevented the making of new Australian Workplace Agreements, reintroduced a ‘No Disadvantage Test’ for the approval of collective workplace agreements and set in train under the auspices of the Australian Industrial Relations Commission, the rationalisation and simplification of federal system awards (including state awards now part of  the federal system) under the ALP’s prescription for ‘award modernisation’. This transitional legislation came into effect on 28 March 2008. The bulk of the Fair Work legislation came into effect between April and July 2009, although critical elements such as the National Employment Standards and modern awards do not come into effect until January 2010.




13 September 2006

ACTU releases its collective bargaining report by a union delegation visiting overseas countries and indicates a broader legislated safety net should the High Court support the ‘Work Choices’ legislation. Also proposes majority rights for collective bargaining including the right to union representation in any future ALP Government legislation.

ACTU Secretary’s address to the Press Club

25 October 2006

ACTU announces its industrial relations policy, targeting Work Choices provisions. It canvasses ending the distinction between union and non-union agreements but agreements and awards will continue to be made under the Constitution’s corporations power.

Unions back federal system

14 November 2006

High Court determines that the Workplace Relations Act (amended by ‘Work Choices’) was valid Commonwealth law and a majority (5-2) rejected the states and union case on all points.

High Court’s Work Choices decision

4 December 2006

Kevin Rudd MP and Julia Gillard MP replace Kim Beazley MP and Jenny Macklin MP respectively as leader and deputy leader of the federal ALP parliamentary party.

Rudd & Gillard to take Federal Labor forward

25 April 2007

The ALP (K. Rudd and J. Gillard) publishes its workplace relations policy, Forward with Fairness ahead of the 2007 federal election. It proposes: a national workplace regulatory system; 10 national standards (4 weeks annual leave 10 days personal leave, paid public holidays and so on) available to all federal system employees; 10 award matters; to facilitate choice and representation at work and to replace a number agencies established under the Work Choices legislation with ‘Fair Work Australia’ to administer collective bargaining rules and awards.

Forward with Fairness

28 August 2007

ALP modifies its April workplace relations policy in Forward with Fairness, Policy Implementation Plan. The policy exempts employees earning over $100 000 from the award system; retains current right of entry and pattern bargaining provisions; keeps secondary boycott laws in the Trade Practices Act; proposes to modernise awards; allows existing Australian Workplace Agreements (AWAs) to run their full five year-terms and allows employers in AWA workplaces to offer Individual Transitional Employment Agreements (ITEAs) to new workers during a transition period but not thereafter; retains building industry regulatory arrangements until 31 Jan 2010 and requires awards and agreements to contain individual flexibility arrangements.

Forward with Fairness, Policy Implementation Plan  

24 November 2007

ALP wins the 2007 federal election. Kevin Rudd becomes Prime Minister and Julia Gillard becomes Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Education, Employment and Workplace Relations and Minister for Social Inclusion.

Work Choices weighs in as biggest loser

29 November 2007

Brendan Nelson MP and Julie Bishop MP are elected as leader and deputy leader respectively of the Federal Parliamentary Liberal Party, with Ms Bishop assuming role of shadow workplace relations minister.

Turnbull vows full Nelson support

25 January 2008

NSW IR Minister John Della Bosca releases Working Together: Inquiry into Options for a New National Industrial Relations System by Professor George Williams outlining options for state participation in a national industrial relations system.

Williams Report

7 February 2008

Parliamentary Liberal Party considers support for AWAs in the light of incoming legislation to repeal the making of new AWAs. Business was criticised for not more vigorously supporting Work Choices at the 2007 election.

Coalition split over scrapping of AWAs

13 February 2008

Workplace Relations Amendment (Transition to Forward with Fairness) Bill 2008 is introduced to the House of Representatives.

Bill as introduced

Second Reading Speech

28 March 2008

Workplace Relations Amendment (Transition to Forward with Fairness) Act 2008 comes into effect.

It prevents new AWAs being made; enables the Australian Industrial Relations Commission to start modernising awards, reintroduces an award-based ‘No Disadvantage Test’ replacing the 2007 Fairness Test for the approval of workplace agreements and introduces ITEAs.

Minister Gillard requests AIRC to modernise awards.

Text of the first award modernisation request at the Appendix to :

Bills Digest 72 2007-2008

29 April 2008

AIRC outlines process for modernising awards in four stages.

AIRC Statement

2 June 2008

DEEWR officials report to the Senate Employment Committee that 70-80 staff are engaged in drafting the fair work legislation and it is on track to be introduced to Parliament by the end of the year.

Committee Hansard, p.65

16 June 2008

Minister Gillard varies her award modernisation request to incorporate the National Employment Standards.

Request variation

16 September 2008

Malcolm Turnbull MP assumes leadership of federal Parliamentary Liberal Party. Michael Keenan MP becomes shadow workplace relations minister.

Turnbull takes command, Nelson takes backbench

7 November 2008

Tripartite Committee on Industrial Legislation (COIL) meets for 10 days to review the proposed fair work legislation.

Tightrope act hits the road

25 November 2008

Fair Work Bill introduced to the House of Representatives. The Bill introduces 10 National Employment Standards, continues award modernisation, introduces rules for collective agreement-making, discontinues the distinction between union and non-union enterprise agreements, reintroduces protection from unfair dismissal and stiffens the recognition of bargaining representatives.

Bill  as introduced

Second Reading Speech

18 December 2008

Minister Gillard varies her award modernisation request to require the AIRC to draft a new model award flexibility clause and exempts ‘enterprise’ NAPSAs from modernisation.

Request variation

19 December 2008

AIRC determines 17 Stage 1 (priority) awards.

Stage 1 awards

27 February 2009

Senate Standing Committee on Education, Employment and Workplace Relations tables report on the Fair Work Bill.

Fair Work Bill 2008 [Provisions]

19 March 2009

The Fair Work (Transitional Provisions and Consequential Amendments) Bill 2009 is introduced to Parliament. Amongst its provisions, the Bill deletes the contents of the Workplace Relations Act but for its schedule dealing with registered organisations and retitles the Act as the Fair Work (Registered Organisations) Act.

Bill as introduced

Second Reading Speech

20 March 2009

Fair Work Bill passed by Parliament.


3 April 2009

AIRC issues 27 Stage 2 modern awards.

Stage 2 awards

7 April 2009

Fair Work Act 2009 receives Royal Assent.

Fair Work Act

2 May 2009

Minister Gillard varies her award modernisation request to clarify: the nature of award exempt employees, the definition of enterprise awards, the definition of equal remuneration and changes regarding the operation of the NES.

Request variation

7 May 2009

Senate Standing Committee on Education, Employment and Workplace Relations tables report on the Fair Work (Transitional Provisions and Consequential Amendments) legislation.

Report on the Fair Work  (Transitional Provisions and Consequential Amendments) Bill 2009

25 May 2009

Regulations for the Fair Work Act commence.

FW Regulations

27 May 2009

The Fair Work (State Referrals of Power and Consequential Amendments to Other Legislation) Bill introduced to Parliament.

Bill as introduced

Second Reading Speech

28 May 2009

Minister Gillard varies her modernisation request to remove the restaurant café and catering sector from the hospitality modern award so as to create a separate instrument for restaurants.

Request variation

10 June 2009

Victorian Parliament passes legislation to refer industrial legislation to the Commonwealth.

Fair Work Commonwealth Powers Bill

17 June 2009

Fair Work (Transitional Provisions and Consequential Amendments) Bill and Fair Work (State Referrals and Consequential and Other Legislation) Bill pass Parliament.

Building and Construction Industry Improvement Amendment (Transition to Fair Work) Bill introduced to Parliament.

Minister Gillard issues directions to Australian Building and Construction Commissioner Lloyd concerning the spread of ABCC resources and the conduct of coercion powers and compulsory interviews.




Bill as introduced

Second Reading Speech


Coercive power direction

25 June 2009

Fair Work (Transitional Provisions and Consequential Amendments) Act 2009 and Fair Work (State Referrals and Consequential and Other Legislation) Act 2009 receive Royal Assent. The WR Act is retitled as the Fair Work (Registered Organisations) Act 2009.

Senate disallows Minister Gillard’s directions regarding the ABC Commissioner.

Fair Work (Transitional Provisions and Consequential Amendments) Act 2009

Fair Work (State Referrals and Consequential and Other Legislation) Act 2009

Fair Work (Registered Organisations) Act 2009

Senate Hansard p.4294

26 June 2009

AIRC responds to Minister Gillard’s May 2009 variation by asking if the Minister could provide guidance on the setting of hours of work, penalty rates and overtime in a proposed restaurant and catering modern award.

AIRC Statement

1 July 2009

First operational day of Fair Work Australia (FWA) and the Fair Work Ombudsman (FWO), which is noted by FWA President Geoffrey Guidice as being the day which FWA is at the ‘height of its popularity’.


The Fair Work (Transitional and Consequential) Amendments Regulations commence

Fair Work (Registered Organisations) Regulations commence

Curtin up on a new era of industrial relations


FW (Transitional and Consequential) Regulations)

FW (Registered Orgs) Regulations

2 July 2009

Minister Gillard varies her award modernisation request to reflect Victoria’s reference of power.

Request variation

29 July 2009

FWA issues its first good faith bargaining order directing the Australian Services Union and the Queensland Tertiary Admissions Centre to confer over enterprise bargaining.

Good faith bargaining order

17 August 2009

Minister Gillard varies her award modernisation request to have awards apply to coastal navigation.

Request variation

27 August 2009

Minister Gillard varies her award modernisation request to allow flexible hours and casuals’ piece rates in the horticultural award; to improve the in-house call centre award safety net, and to have part-time penalty rates in the retail and pharmacy sectors reconsidered.

Request variation

2 September 2009

AIRC Full Bench issues decision as to how award transitional arrangements (higher costs/lower pay depending on state) will be used to mitigate labour cost increases or pay cuts.

AIRC decision on transitional provisions

4 September 2009

AIRC releases 34 ‘Stage 3’ modern awards.

PM Rudd claims that the original commitment regarding higher costs/lower pay from award modernisation was an objective not a guarantee, while the Federal Opposition calls for award modernisation to be suspended.

Stage 3 awards


Awards promise not a guarantee; Rudd Overhaul in disarray: Opposition

9 September 2009

South Australian Parliament introduces legislation to refer private sector industrial relations to the Commonwealth.

Fair Work (Commonwealth Powers) Bill

10 September 2009

Senate Standing Committee on Education, Employment and Workplace Relations tables report on the Building and Construction Industry Improvement Amendment (Transition to Fair Work) Bill 2009.


AIRC responds to Minister Gillard’s request variation regarding the draft horticulture award by inviting award variation/s in 2010.

Building and Construction Industry Improvement

Amendment (Transition to Fair Work) Bill 2009


AIRC Statement

13 September 2009

Malcolm Turnbull canvasses the possibility of reintroducing individual contracts after the NSW Liberal Party NSW Council and Convention criticised the FWA system as too inflexible.

Turnbull faces row over backflip

16 September 2009

AMWU and Campbell’s Australia engage in industrial action over the form of the FW Act’s requirement for flexibility provisions in enterprise bargaining negotiations.

Strikes to challenge new IR laws

25 September 2009

AIRC publishes exposure drafts of its ‘Stage 4’ modern awards which included a new miscellaneous award and a restaurant industry award – as directed by a variation to the ministerial request.

AIRC Statement

15 October 2009

Australian Industry Group (AiG) releases a study of bargaining under the first 100 days of the operation of the FW Act. It finds that parties had the right to ‘hard bargaining’ and could not be forced to make concessions.

Fair Work Act Bargaining Provisions - The First 100 days

21 October 2009

Legislation adding to the state referral provisions in the Fair Work Act is introduced, allowing (non-corporate) state employers referred to the national system a year to remain on their state awards.

Fair Work Amendment (State Referrals and Other Measures) Bill 2009

23 October 2009

Minister Gillard makes the first declarations under the Fair Work Act to allow multiple employers to bargain for a single enterprise agreement. The declarations applied to Victorian kindergarten employers, Queensland Lutheran schools, Queensland Catholic schools and two New South Wales hospitals.

First single interest bargaining declarations under Fair Work Act

28 October 2009

Senate resolves to require the President of FWA, Giudice J, to appear before Senate Estimates Committee.


30 October 2009

Minister Gillard and the Australian Services Union sign a Heads of Agreement document to support an equal pay case before FWA in respect of pay rates of Social and Community Services (SACS) workers to be covered under modern federal award.

Heads of Agreement

11 November 2009

Queensland passes its referral bill. It extends the Fair Work Act to the Queensland private sector through a text-based referral.

Fair Work (Commonwealth Powers) and Other Provisions Act 2009

16 November 2009

AIRC removes exemption clauses, in the Clerks – Private Sector Award and Banking, Finance and Insurance Award thus restoring an award safety net in respect of certain provisions

Australian Municipal, Administrative, Clerical and Services Union – Variation [2009] AIRCFB 922 (16 November 2009)


Finance Sector Union – Variation [2009] AIRCFB 923 (16 November 2009)

17 November 2009

AIRC releases draft labour hire clauses to be inserted in modern awards in lieu of a stand-alone labour hire award.


South Australia passes Fair Work referral legislation.


Opposition senators call for the tabling of past and future bilateral intergovernmental agreements concerning the framework of the national workplace relations system.

Labour hire award provisions statement

Fair Work (Commonwealth Powers) Act

Senate Hansard p. 8001

19 November 2009

Tasmanian Parliament passes its industrial relations referral legislation

Industrial Relations (Commonwealth Powers) Act 2009

30 November 2009

Part-time members of FWA’s Minimum Wage Panel (John Vines, Professor Sue Richardson and Peter Dwyer) were announced. The panel will include the FWA President and three FWA members.

Fair Work Australia’s Minimum Wage Panel appointed

1 December 2009

NSW Parliament passes its industrial relations referral legislation. 

The Hon Tony Abbott was elected Leader of the Parliamentary Liberal Party, and thus Leader of the Opposition in the Federal Parliament. Senator Eric Abetz is later appointed as Shadow Minister on Employment and Workplace Relations.

Industrial Relations (Commonwealth Powers)  Act 2009


Surprise victory for Abbott sets party on new journey.

2 December 2009

Federal Parliament passes the Fair Work Amendment (State Referrals and Other Measures) Bill thus facilitating the start-up a national industrial system (excluding Western Australia) from 1 January 2010.

Fair Work Amendment (State Referrals and Other Measures) Act 2009

3 December 2009

Fair Work Ombudsman releases the information statement that national system employers will be required to give to all new employees from 1 January 2010.

Fair Work Information Statement

4 December 2010

AIRC publishes its Stage 4 awards, completing the initial phase of award modernisation and replacing some 1560 state and federal awards covering 93 industries and occupations with 122 modern awards, operative on 1 January 2010.

Decision on award modernisation – Stage Four – [2009] AIRCFB 945 (4 December 2009)

15 December 2009

Six commissioners were appointed to FWA with a further twelve dual appointees as either FWA commissioners or deputy presidents.

Fair Work Australia Commissioners appointed

1 January 2010

The balance of the Fair Work system comes into effect for corporate employers in respect of the National Employment Standards and modern awards, although ‘enterprise’ awards may continue to 31 December 2013 unless application is made to replace an enterprise award with a modern award.



The Fair Work (State Referral and Consequential and Other Amendments) Regulations commence. The AIRC concludes its award modernisation task and is replaced by FWA.

FW (State Referral) Regulations

5 January 2010

Fair Work Australia rejects several enterprise agreements that sought to give employees the option of nominating their preferred work hours in exchange for giving up overtime or other penalty rates

Bupa Care Services Pty Ltd [2010] FWA 16 (5 January 2010)

29 January 2010

Business Council of Australia (BCA) releases a paper prepared by Professor Breen Creighton on the FW Act’s good faith bargaining provisions. It argued that FWA should use its discretionary powers to encourage bargaining representatives to try to resolve their differences by direct negotiation rather than by seeking formal orders and judicial intervention.

Good Faith Bargaining Under the Fair Work Act, Striking a Balance


ACTU urges 1500 construction workers on the Pluto LNG project striking over changes to accommodation arrangements to return to work and for the dispute to be negotiated.

ACTU calls for end to Pluto gas strike 

2 February 2010

MUA and Total Marine Services reach an in principle agreement on the operation of oil and gas vessels in WA off shore gas and oil sector, after industrial action.

Union forces $50,000 pay hike

4 February 2010

Minister Gillard introduces amendments to the Building and Construction Industry Improvement Amendment (Transition to Fair Work) Bill 2009.

Building Inspectorate amendments

12 February 2010

Rio Tinto Australia advises its rail employees that it will bargain with the CFMEU for a collective agreement. The outcome follows an application made by the CFMEU to FWA for a majority support determination.

Dangers in union power revival

19 February 2010

Reserve Bank Governor Glenn Stevens calls for parties in industrial negotiations to exercise their FWA negotiating powers judiciously.

Senate Economics Committee - Transcript

22 February 2010

Australian Minerals and Mining Association (AMMA) calls for the retention of ITEAs, industrial action restrictions and right of entry restrictions in a 9 page open letter to the Prime Minister and Opposition Leader.

Workplace relations: future policy direction

24 February 2010

Minister Gillard praises the work of FWA in modernising awards and streamlining business compliance costs.

Delivering the Education Revolution

26 February 2010

Woolworths successfully appeals a refusal by an FWA commissioner to approve an enterprise agreement which did not allow for arbitration by FWA over terms of its provisions.

Woolworths Ltd trading as Produce and Recycling Distribution Centre [2010] FWAFB 1464 (26 February 2010)

2 March 2010

FWA makes its first scope (coverage) order

AMWU-Western Australian Branch v Airflite Pty Ltd [2010] FWA 1723 (2 March 2010)

11 March 2010

International Labour Organisation’s (ILO) Committee on the Application of Conventions noted the full introduction of the FW Act but raised concerns over the Australian Building and Construction Commission (ABCC), arguing that the ABCC should act more like a labour inspectorate rather than prosecuting workers.

Report of the Committee of Experts on the Application of Conventions and Recommendations – ILC , 99th Session, 2010

25 March 2010

Federal Court finds against plaintiff in the first FW Act adverse action matter brought before it.

Barclay v The Board of Bendigo Regional Institute of Technical and Further Education [2010] FCA 284

31 March 2010

Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (ACCI) releases a two-page summary highlighting major aspects of the federal government’s Fair Work industrial relations system.

Australia’s new IR system

7 April 2010

FWA refuses its first application for a take home pay order due to award modernisation. It pointed the parties to a mechanism to counter the apparent decrease in hours brought about by moving to the new award.

Valmai Archer [2010] FWA 2703

15 April 2010

FWA full bench rules that preferred hours clauses used by aged care and retail employers would have disadvantaged employees, thus depriving employees of overtime or other penalty rates when they volunteer to work additional hours (upholding an earlier FWA approach in Bupa).

Preferred hours decision

23 April 2010

FWA issues a majority support determination in respect of the computer supplier IBM

Majority Support Determination

28 April 2010

FWO issues a guide of its interpretations of modern award transitional arrangements determined by Fair Work Australia.

Draft guide to award transitional arrangements

29 April 2010

FWA orders members of the AEU not to proceed with a planned boycott of the ‘NAPLAN” exam.

Australian Capital Territory v Australian Education Union [2010] FWA 3454)

6 May 2010

Fair Work (Transitional Provisions and Consequential Amendments) Amendment Regulations 2010 expand the circumstances in which Fair Work Australia (FWA) can make orders to ensure that award modernisation does not result in a reduction of workers’ take-home pay by providing for ‘class of employee’ and pre-emptive orders.

Take-home pay regulations

10 May 2010

Liquor, Hospitality and Miscellaneous Workers’ Union (LHMU) make a ‘low paid bargaining’ application with multiple employers on behalf of aged-care non- nursing workforce.

Workers ramp up pay claims

12 May 2010

ABS trade union membership data show that union density in Australia increased in the 12 months to August 2009 by 82 200, to 1.83 million (19.7% of the national workforce).

Employee Earnings, Benefits and Trade Union Membership, Australia

13 May 2010

Opposition Leader Tony Abbott foreshadows a return to individual agreements, public sector freeze and small business unfair dismissal exemption in Coalition IR policy, in the run-up to the next federal election.

Budget Reply speech (p. 83)

19 May 2010

Private sector rates of pay excluding bonuses fell to 2.5% annually in trend terms in the year to March. Overall, rates of pay excluding bonuses increased by 2.9% annually.

Labour Price Index, Australia, March 2010, 6345.0

19 May 2010

FWA Full Bench grants an appeal by the Workplace Relations Minister and employers over an FWA decision which held that an IFA (Individual Flexibility Agreement) varying the terms of a proposed enterprise agreement could not be valid.

Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations [2010] FWAFB 3552 ‘Trimas’ (19 May 2010)

20 May 2010

AMMA releases a policy paper criticising FW Act obligations to negotiate flexibility terms collectively (in enterprise agreements) with ‘recalcitrant’ unions before Individual Flexibility Agreements (IFAs) can be negotiated individually with employees.

Individual Flexibility Arrangements (under the Fair Work Act 2009), The Great Illusion

1 June 2010

FWA Full Bench grants an appeal by employers quashing an FWA order granting protected industrial action over a clause of a proposed enterprise agreement which would have required the employer’s contractors to employ their staff on union terms, as not being permissible content.

Airport Fuel Services Pty Limited v Transport Workers' Union of Australia PR997607, 1 June 2010 and

[2010] FWAFB 4457, 17 June 2010

1 June 2010

President of FWA, Giudice J, argues that the Senate resolution requiring his attendance before the Senate Employment Committee may act to harm the independence and impartiality of FWA and that FWA members enjoy immunity similar to that of High Court judges.

Committee Transcript

(pp. 85–87)

2 June 2010

ABS National Accounts data show that trend real non-farm unit labour costs fell by 2.8% in the year to March 2010, falling by 2.1% in the March quarter, while GDP per hour worked in the market sector (labour productivity) rose by 1.9% in trend terms in the year to March and 0.3% in the March quarter.

Australian National Accounts: National Income, Expenditure and Product, March Quarter 2010, 5206.0

3 June 2010

FWA Minimum Wage Panel increases award rates by $26, effective from the first full pay period after 1 July, but also notes that the incremental compression of rates above C14 has been significant.

Annual Wage Review 2009–10 2010] FWAFB 4000

11 June 2010

FWA Full Bench, on appeal from the Minister for Workplace Relations and employers, overturns a right of entry clause of an enterprise agreement, as being not in the terms (ie less prescriptive) than the RoE provisions as set out in the FW Act.

Australian Industry Group [2010] FWAFB 4337 ‘Dunlop Foams’ (11 June 2010)

11 June 2010

The Federal Court finds Queensland Rail had breached consultation provisions of workplace agreements affecting up to 15,000 employees and orders the maximum $33,000 penalty for 20 separate failures ($660 000) to consult unions about major change and for the penalty to be paid to the five unions which brought the proceedings.

Communications, Electrical, Electronic, Energy, Information, Postal, Plumbing and Allied Services Union of Australia v QR Limited [2010] FCA 591

16 June 2010

The Riverina Division of General Practice enterprise agreement is revealed to have been approved by one FWA officer ‘on the papers’ in March while in a duplicate approval process, a second FWA officer felt that the same document would not pass the NDT, an outcome ridiculed by the Federal Opposition.

Labor's Fair Work Australia - Twice the Confusion

22 June 2010

Unions representing employees of a Victorian foundry use provisions of the FW Act (rather than the Corporations law) to begin to recover $2m of accrued entitlements by pursuing the business’s director after the business became insolvent in Nov 2009.

New laws used to get entitlements

23 June 2010

Senate defeats a motion proposing to change an earlier resolution requiring President Giudice’s appearance at each Senate Estimates to an ‘as requested’ basis.



24 June 2010

The Minister for Education Employment and Workplace Relations, Julia Gillard, becomes Australia’s first female Prime Minister replacing Kevin Rudd.

Gillard eyes true mandate

25 June 2010

FWA Full Bench agreed with employers that overtime is not subject to ‘phasing’ and clarified that employers are generally permitted to absorb modern award pay increases into employees' over-award payments. The decision requires the FWO to clarify its advice on over-award absorption in its guidance notes.

s158 application by the AMWU to vary or revoke a modern award and s160 application by the AiG to vary a modern award to remove ambiguity or uncertainty or correct error [2010] FWAFB 4488

28 June 2010

Simon Crean is appointed Minister for Education, Employment and Workplace Relations (and Social Inclusion).

A Very Safe Pair of Hands

30 June 2010

FWA’s Minimum Wage and Research Branch publishes a guide to the transition to FW Act awards and agreements from previous federal and state instruments including state referred instruments, which may take up to 4 years.

Minimum wage transitional instruments

1 July 2010

The phasing of award rates of pay over 5 years from previous state and federal awards to modern award rates commences in 20 per cent increments or decrements.

FWO Guidance Note 7

9 July 2010

FWA refuses employer application to reduce the Modern Retail Award’s minimum hours for casuals from three to two.

National Retail Association Ltd and Ors [2010] FWA 5068

14 July 2010

AiG releases a review of the first 12 months of the FW system’s operation, noting particular FWA cases in which AiG and employers intervened concerning matters such as good faith bargaining, ballots for approving agreements, industrial action ballots and similar.

Fair Work Act - Bargaining Provisions : The First 12 Months

16 July 2010

Australian Retailers Association signals an appeal against FWA’s decision to retain the three hour minimum shift for casuals in the Modern Retail Award.

NRA fights for youth jobs in appeal against Fair Work decision

16 July 2010

AiG releases a paper which argues that the FW Act’s transfer of business provisions hamper transfer of employees to acquiring ICT enterprises.

Transfer of Business Provisions of the Fair Work Act - Negative Impacts Upon the ICT and Other Industries.

17 July 2010

Prime Minister Gillard calls a federal election to be held on 21 August 2010, while the Federal Opposition commits to leaving the FW Act, including its unfair dismissal provisions, unchanged in its first term.

Statement on Workplace Relations

18 July 2010

AiG proposes three areas for FW Act reform: transfer of business; discounted FWA safety net increases in light of the ALP’s signalled superannuation increases and mandatory individual flexibility provisions in enterprise agreements.

Comment on potential changes to Fair Work Act

20 July 2010

The Government issues a revised preamble to the Small Business Fair Dismissal Code informing employers that the requirements for determining whether a dismissal was a genuine redundancy are contained in section 389 of the FW Act, while a number of employer groups express disappointment at the Opposition’s ‘no amendments’ commitment.

Small business updated dismissal  code and checklist   


Pressure on Liberals for dismissals move

20 July 2010

ACTU proposes $1 per union member levy to fund a $1.8m campaign against the reintroduction of Work Choices and itemises provisions of the FW Act which a future Coalition Government might amend via changes to the Act’s regulations.

Abbott’s “tweaks” leave back door open for worst of WorkChoices to return

20 July 2010

Coalition proposes budget savings in the 2010 federal election campaign which inter alia propose to remove the $6m pa subsidy from unions for conducting industrial elections raising questions as to whether the relevant FW Acts will need to be amended.

Abbott carves out $1.2 billion of savings

23 July 2010

AMMA releases a review of the first 12 months operation of the FW Act finding that mining employers have had reduced ability to negotiate directly with their workforces, faced increasing the authority of Fair Work Australia and unnecessary complexity to agreement making.

Finding Fairness: A review of the first 12 months of the Fair Work Act 2009

28 July 2010

CFMEU urges Pluto workers who took industrial action (see entry for 29 January 2010) over accommodation changes to accept out of court settlements or face large penalties for the action.

Union advises workers to settle or face fines

20 August 2010

Computer company IBM agrees to new individual contracts for 80 staff members after the Australian Services Union had earlier won a FWA majority support determination for union representation in the negotiation of the contracts subject to the relevant award and NES safety net.

Union wins deal for IBM workers

7 September 2010

ALP forms a minority government under Prime Minister Gillard.

A smiling PM leads Labor government in name only 

14 September 2010

Senator Chris Evans is appointed Minister for Tertiary Education, Skills, Jobs and Workplace Relations while Senator Eric Abetz is reappointed Shadow Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations.

Credible team chosen to provide good government 

Abbott unveils a 'hungrier' front bench 

29 September 2010

Minister Evans writes to FWA requesting the deletion of old awards and pay scales following their superseding by modern awards, be delayed if this results in some employees losing minimum entitlements.

Letter to FWA President

1 October 2010

ACTU issues a report on the Australian economy under the first 12 months of the FW Act showing the company profits rebounded following the Global Financial Crisis, while the wages share of GDP is at 40 year lows.

8 October 2010

An FWA Full Bench upholds a 3 hour minimum shift for casuals provision in the Modern Retail Award.

Challenge to work hours fails

14 October 2010

NSW Premier Keneally reveals that she has written to PM Gillard requesting the $6 billion Barangaroo apartment and recreational development (Woolloomooloo dock area, Sydney) be exempted from the Fair Work legislation so her government can make a project agreement (under NSW industrial laws) similar to that which governed the Olympic site development at Homebush over the 1990s.

Keneally demands special deal

28 October 2010

AMMA releases a report on the operation of the good faith bargaining provisions arguing  that unions are using their mandated involvement in greenfield agreements to extract inflated benefits and that bargaining representatives be required to advise all other bargaining parties who they represent in bargaining negotiations.

Agreement or argument: What faith can we have in good faith bargaining?

29 October 2010

State and Territory chambers of commerce and industry and national industry associations met in Melbourne, under the auspices of ACCI’s Workplace Policy Committee to review the bipartisan commitment of the major political parties not to amend the Fair Work laws in the immediate future. A statement issued by the twenty employer organisations listed issues such as union activism, bargaining technicality, transfer of business, minimum hours engagement, excessive award movements, dismissal claims and award interpretation among others for criticism.

Employers want Fair Work modified 

5 November 2010

The Australian Human Resources Institute releases a survey of 993 HR managers questioned on the operation of the fair work laws. They reported the transfer of business provisions were frustrating to work with, but most expected a smoother system in 1 year’s time.

Impact of the Fair Work Act within Australian Workplaces

7 November 2010

Shadow Treasury Minister, Joe Hockey, stated that the Coalition would take an IR policy to the 2013 federal election, claiming that the fair work system was impeding productivity.

Hockey calls for new IR debate

5 November 2010

FWA Full Bench outlines process to move Division 2B (State referred) employers and employees to modern federal awards, including their transitional phases, to commence from 1 February 2011.

Award Modernisation – Division 2B State Awards [2010] FWAFB 8558 (5 November 2010)

7 November 2010

Shadow Treasury Minister, Joe Hockey, states that the Coalition would take an IR policy to the 2013 federal election, claiming that the fair work system was impeding productivity.

Hockey calls for new IR debate

10 November 2010

The National Retailers Association fails in its second attempt to reduce minimum shift lengths for casuals, this time in the fast food industry. FWA cited earlier submissions supporting a 3 hour minimum shift at the time of fashioning the modern award.

National Retail Association Limited [2010] FWA 8595 (10 November 2010)

18 November 2010

The Federal Government’s submission to FWA on the SACS pay equity case raises the possibility of services reductions even if any pay increases are phased in.

Federal Government Submission

19 November 2010

FWA’s SDP Acton reports that under the FW Act’s dismissal provisions only 87 applications (less than 1%) required determination in the first year. The vast majority were finalised through FWA’s new conciliation process, replacing the former system of issue of certificate to proceed to arbitration or court hearing. Some 84% of the more than 8,000 applications that went to (mainly telephone) conciliation were resolved there.

Where have all the cases gone?: Voluntary resolution of unfair dismissal claims : paper for the ALLA National Conference 2010 Adelaide

26 November 2010

Federal Government releases ‘Safe Rates Safe Roads’ report on trucking rates which canvasses: a ‘safe rates panel’ within FWA and/or extending the FW Act’s outworker provisions to road transport, or setting up a specialist tribunal.

Safe Rates Safe Roads

1 December 2010

Opposition leader Tony Abbott confirms the Coalition’s position of no IR change, while other Coalition MPs put the case for reform.

Abbott resists pressure to move on IR

Liberals divided over IR reform

1 December 2010

Trend real non-farm unit labour costs fell by 2.1% in the year to September; Annual productivity growth, measured by trend GDP per hour worked in the market sector, increased by 1.1%, while the profits share of total factor income rose to 29.1% in September quarter (2010).

Australian National Accounts: National Income, Expenditure and Product, September Quarter 2010, 5206.0

6 December 2010

WA Government releases the Amendola report into WA state industrial system which recommends against referring the WA state system to the national FW system.

Review of Western Australian Industrial Relations system: final report

6 December 2010

Tasmanian unions call on the State Government to withdraw from the Fair Work system due to its complexity arguing that the State system was more union and employer friendly, although employers caution that any move back not impose additional costs.

National work laws draw fire in Tassie

8 December 2010

Productivity Chair Gary Banks at a conference of business economists claimed that it was vital to ensure that regulations intended to promote fairness in Australia's workplaces did not detract unduly from their productivity.

Successful reform: past lessons, future


23 December 2010

FWA Full Bench determines that protected industrial action can be taken before a majority support ballot is required in bargaining, providing the party has shown a subjective desire to seek an enterprise agreement. Employers argue that it is unacceptable for unions to strike for wage rises instead of securing wage rises in return for work efficiencies.

J.J. Richards & Sons Pty Ltd v Transport Workers’ Union of Australia


ACCI: Wages policy undermines the productivity quest 

30 January 2011

Shadow Finance Minister Andrew Robb claims at a Young Liberals convention that under the Fair Work system, employers are finding flexibility diminishing, compliance very challenging and more costly, and a system that is increasingly interfering in the capacity of businesses to reward and organise their workforce to encourage innovation and greater competitiveness.

Restoring Australia's resilience - playing to our strengths: address to the Australian Young Liberals Federal Convention 2011

2 February 2011

AMMA releases a 6 monthly update of a survey of 76 members about the Fair Work system with the majority of members continuing to report that they were neither satisfied nor dissatisfied with the system. Issues cited went to the growing power of unions at the workplace being a threat to the productivity of the minerals sector; right of entry and adverse actions being taken against companies by employees.

The AMMA workplace relations research project - a survey based on analysis: second report

10 February 2011

The Grattan Institute releases a report on Australia’s productivity performance claiming there has been a ‘substantial deterioration’ in Australia’s rate of productivity growth during this millennium and argues that regulations and legislation intended to promote fairness in industrial relations should not act unduly as a deterrent to productivity.

Report available from the Grattan Institute

15 February 2011

The Australian Workers Union announces a recruitment campaign targeting the mining corporation Rio Tinto at its Biennial Conference.

Howes declares war on Rio Tinto

25 February 2011

Opposition leader Tony Abbott rules out toughening the Coalition’s IR policy rebutting a call to reintroduce individual agreements made by Peter Reith, former Howard Government Workplace Relations Minister who also criticised the AWU’s recruitment drive in Rio Tinto.

Abbott rules out tougher industrial relations policies

Militant unions set to rock boat

4 March 2011

The Federal Government’s final submission to FWA on the SACS pay equity case argues that it is difficult to predict the cost consequences of any salary increases with any certainty given the highly complex and diverse funding arrangements.

Final Submission

9 March 2011

Government announces replacing the Equal Opportunity for Women in the Workplace Act with a new Workplace Gender Equality Act, which enshrine pay equity as an objective.

Fact Sheet

11 March 2011

Fast food industry franchise operators Pizza Hut and Kentucky Fried Chicken are likely to come under the Fast Food Industry Award 2010, having lost applications to modernise their respective enterprise awards.

Kentucky Fried Chicken Pty Limited and SDA, KFC National Enterprise Award 2001 [2011] FWAFB 1078

Yum Restaurants Pty Ltd, SDA, Pizza Hut - SDA Employee Relations Award 2000 [2011] FWAFB 1077 

23 March 2011

CFMEU releases a research paper calling for the Fair Work Act to make employers liable for setting-up sham contracting arrangements.

Race to the Bottom: sham contracting in Australia's construction industry

2 April 2011

Workplace Relations Shadow Minister, Senator Eric Abetz calls for the Fair Work Ombudsman to be split into an advice agency and an enforcement agency and for FWA members to resign from political parties.

Coalition renews attack on regulator's chief

13 April 2011

Workplace Relations Minister Senator Chris Evans rebukes calls for FW Act amendments claiming that enterprise agreements now covered more than 2.3 million employees and the number of days lost to industrial disputes is in decline.

Evans rebuts both sides on Fair Work

13 April 2011

Justice Bromberg of the Federal Court calls for a simpler test to determine employee or independent contractor status.

On Call Interpreters and Translators Agency Pty Ltd v Commissioner of Taxation (No 3) [2011] FCA 366 javascript:;

24 April 2011

AiG gives credit for award modernisation but renews its call for the transfer of business provisions and agreement content rules to be addressed in amendments to the FW Act.

Political rivals must sort out workplace agenda

28 April 2011

The Liberal-National NSW Government of Premier O’Farrell reverses the previous ALP Government’s support for the SACS case arguing the FW Act requires a work value comparison between female and male workers.

Liberals squib on promise to close pay gap

28 April 2011

FWA’s SDP Acton finds permissible, enterprise agreement provisions dealing with contracting-out (at agreement rates), union membership encouragement and relaxed right of entry rules for the purposes of dispute resolution. 

ADJ Contracting Pty Ltd [2011] FWA 2380

3 May 2011

Federal MP Adam Bandt proposes a round table to FW Act amendments to cater for ‘green bargaining’ in enterprise bargaining negotiations.

Greens call for IR overhaul

5 May 2011

FWA Full Bench excludes agreement-covered employees from the authorisation it granted allowing aged care employees to access the FW Act’s low paid bargaining provisions.

S242 United Voice and the AWU (Qld branch) [2011] FWAFB 2633

6 May 2011

The Reserve Bank reports on large wage increases in specialised occupations in some industries and reasonably subdued growth for lower-skilled employees in non-resource industries, but most companies are not reporting significant difficulties in obtaining suitable employees.

Statement on Monetary Policy, RBA, May 2011

6 May 2011

ABS reports that trade union membership fell as a proportion of the workforce from 20 per cent August 2009) to 18 per cent (August 2010) with 1.8 million employees in unions.

Employee Earnings, Benefits and Trade Union Membership, Australia, Aug 2010

6 May 2011

FWA reports that three monthly trends in its workload shows agreement approval flattening, with dismissal and general protection applications up. The ACTU puts the increase in dismissal claims a result of employee coverage under the FW Act from 2 million to 6 million employees.

Report under Schedule 5.2, Part 1, 3rd quarter 2010-2011

Report on Unfair Dismissals, 3rd quarter 2010-2011

Fair Work claims spike hits employers

19 May 2011

BCA writes to Minister Evans outlining their concerns with the FW Act. Amongst the areas of concern are the Act’s general protection provisions and the proposal for majority support determinations to be preceded by secret ballots.

Monitoring the operation of the Fair Work Act 2009 

27 May 2011

ACTU responds to claims that the Fair Work Act has increased wage pressures, caused skills shortages, lowered productivity and that industrial disputes have increased.

Debate about workplace, wages and skills must be based on facts, not myths

1 June 2011

FWA Full Bench dismisses appeals in the JJ Richards case, meaning that employees seeking protected industrial action are not required to first obtain a majority support determination.

JJ Richards [2011] FWAFB 3377

1 June 2011

WA Chamber of Commerce and Industry sets out IR state and federal IR reform proposal which includes individual employment contracts, restrictions on union entry, reduced and simplified awards, collective union agreements based on a majority of members at the workplace.

Employer group pushes IR

1 June 2011

ABS releases national accounts data which show that in the March quarter 2011, the trend real unit labour costs decreased 0.4% while the trend non-farm real unit labour costs increased 0.1%, while GDP decreased in the quarter by 1.2%.

Australian National Accounts: National Income, Expenditure and Product, March Quarter 2011, 5206.0

3 June 2011

FWA increases modern award rates by 3.4% and sets a new minimum wage of $589.30 (from 1 July 2011).

Annual Wage Review 2010–11 [2011] FWAFB 3400 (3 June 2011)

7 June 2011

AMMA announces a fighting fund to challenge adverse decisions of FWA.

Miners ready for workplace war

9 June 2011

Assistant Treasurer Bill Shorten states that the Productivity Commission will undertake a review of default funds in modern awards in 2012 to be completed before ‘My Super’ arrangements are enacted in 2013.

Default funds face PC review

20 June 2011

Woolworths and Myer retail chains and the National Retail Association criticise modern awards claiming that labour costs are 200% higher after 6pm compared to US retail costs. Coincidentally FWA grants the National Retailers Association retail   award provisions allowing school students to work minimum shifts of 1.5 hours between 3 and 6.30pm (from 1 July 2011, but later stayed due to an appeal).

Retailers intensify IR attack 

Fair Work Act 2009
s.158 - Application to vary or revoke a modern award

23 June 2011

FWO commences action in the Federal Court recovering unpaid wages estimated at $127 000 for Filipino labourers working 7 day weeks of 12 hr shifts on NW Shelf oil rigs for $3 ph under 456 visas.


28 June 2011

DEEWR releases an update to Trends in Federal Enterprise Bargaining for the December 2010 quarter. It shows the number of current enterprise agreements rising to 25 226 covering almost 2.6 million Australian employees with recent average annualised wage increases falling to 3.8% (from 4.1% in the previous quarter).

Trends in Federal Enterprise Bargaining

1 July 2011

ACTU releases a two yearly report on the Fair Work Act which finds that half a million new jobs have been created; wage growth has been sustainable with no inflationary wages outbreak; industrial action remains at low levels and productivity growth sits at 1.8 per cent.

The Fair Work Act: Two Years On

1 July 2011

The Federal Magistrates Court criticises FWO for prosecuting rather than assisting a small business operator over untimely pay slip issue.

Fair Work Ombudsman v Ballina Island Resort Pty Ltd & Anor [2011] FMCA 500 (1 July 2011)

6 July 2011

WA Premier Barnett announces that WA would not be proceeding with the changes recommended in the Amendola Report to the WA IR system, but rules out moving to the Fair Work system.

Barnett bins IR recommendations

13 July 2011

Victorian construction workers approve a 4 year agreement providing 5% pa wage rises, double rates for overtime and increased superannuation. The Victorian Government announces a review into the state’s building code.

Building workers back 'fantastic' pay deal

Baillieu takes on building unions

17 July 2011

Former Prime Minister John Howard puts the case on Insiders for the coalition parties to adopt an industrial relations policy for the 2013 federal election containing individual contracts subject to the pre-Work Choices no disadvantage test and exemptions for small business from unfair dismissal.

Heat's on Abbott to tackle workplace laws

22 July 2011

The Federal Court orders the TWU to pay over $700 000 in damages to Qantas as well as other penalties for organising stop work meetings in a number of airports while an existing enterprise agreement was in operation in 2009 (under the WR Act). Qantas chairman Leigh Clifford points to industrial relations as the greatest single risk to the Australian economy.

Qantas Airways Ltd v Transport Workers' Union of Australia (No 2) [2011] FCA 816 (22 July 2011)

Qantas attacks IR policy

25 July 2011

The Federal Court finds a 2008 industrial agreement by Pilbara Iron Company (Services) Pty Ltd with its employees under the WR Act never came into operation, allowing bargaining to start under the FW Act.

Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union v Pilbara Iron Company (Services) Pty Ltd [2011] FCAFC 91

8 August 2011

The Productivity Commission releases draft report on the retail sector recommending deregulation of trading hours and increased labour flexibility, prompting the Opposition to call for the scheduled review of the FW legislation (2012) to be brought forward.

Pressure to review Fair Work Act builds

PC draft report

26 August 2011

Reserve Bank of Australian Governor, Glenn Stevens targets low productivity as a source of inflationary pressure and reflects on business calls for IR review.

Reserve Bank Governor's IR reform call

1 September 2011

Leader of the Opposition Tony Abbott calls for freedom of employers and employees to enter into workplace agreements, while Shadow Minister for Workplace Relations Senator Abetz reaffirms Work Choices remains cremated and Adam Bandt MP for the Australian Greens states that the only way Work Choices can be re-legislated is for the ALP to vote with the Coalition.

Coalition presses for Fair Work reforms

6 September 2011

FWO prosecutes the Australian Shooting Academy in the Federal Court for contravening award and FW Act provisions governing the making of Individual Flexibility Agreements and workplace rights.

Fair Work Ombudsman v Australian Shooting Academy Pty Ltd [2011] FCA 1064 (6 September 2011)

7 September 2011

Economists question whether either Work Choices or the Fair Work Act had been in place long enough to have a discernible impact on labour productivity.

IR laws 'not to blame for productivity sags'

Productivity: paper presented to the annual policy conference of the Reserve Bank of Australia 

9 September 2011

Federal Treasurer Swan and Minister Evans indicated a preparedness to look at changes to the FW Act although ruled out a return to Australian Workplace Agreements (AWAs).

Govt prepared to 'look at' Fair Work changes 

13 September 2011

NSW Police set up Strike Force Carnarvon to inquire into corporate practices of the Health Services Union, having a week earlier concluded there was no case for further inquiry. The HSU announces its intention to disaffiliate from the ALP. Victorian Police commence an inquiry into alleged corrupt practices in the HSU.

NSW Police statement

More claims of cover-up as union cuts ties to Labor 

Police to strike at heart of card use 

14 September 2011

SDA loses its appeal against VP Watson’s decision to allow 90 min after school shifts for schools students under the modern retail award. Award provisions to be prepared.

s604 appeal SDA [2011] FWAFB 6251 (14 September 2011)

20 September 2011

Opposition leader Tony Abbott rules out a return to individual statutory employment contracts with a focus on reforms to Individual Flexibility Agreements.

Business tries IR Plan B

26 September 2011

Some 24,946 federal agreements cover 2.55 million employees. Agreements lodged for the March Quarter 2011 show an average annual wage increase of 3.8% mitigating against fears of wage break out.

Trends in Federal Enterprise Bargaining, March Quarter 2011

26 September 2011

AMMA releases its 10 priority areas for IR reform which include making IFA’s a condition of employment and restricting union entry rights to sites where they have members.

The Fair Work Act: Meaningful Change Required

7 October 2011

FWA President Guidice addresses the Australian Labour and Employment Relations Conference (WA, formerly the IR Society) on national productivity performance and the IR framework calling for an independent inquiry into the matter. FW Ombudsman Wilson addresses the conference reporting on wage recovery operations in which a few extreme cases might be seen as ‘wage theft’ given the deliberate circumvention of wage standards by some employers.

Address to the Australian Labour and Employment Relations Association

National Conference (WA)

Speech to the Australian Labour and Employment Relations Association National Convention, 8 October 2011

14 October 2011

ACTU releases its report on low productivity and the industrial relations system, raising issues such as business managerial capabilities, inadequate infrastructure and skills development.

Working by numbers: separating rhetoric and reality on Australian productivity

19 October 2011

FWO agrees to investigate citing IFAs which would pass the ‘Better Off Overall Test’ revealed from wage audits (as IFAs are not formally approved) following a proposition from Senator Abetz in Estimates so as to assist employers making IFAs.

Senate EEWR Ctee Transcript, p.39

29 October 2011

Qantas Airlines CEO Alan Joyce announces the grounding of the entire Qantas domestic fleet prior to an employee lock out in response to enterprise bargaining actions and claims of three of its unions.

Qantas statement

31 October 2011

FWA Full Bench terminates all industrial action at Qantas under FW Act s.424. Parties directed to bargain for 21 days with a further 21 days if needed.

Decision in Minister For Tertiary Education, Skills, Jobs And Workplace Relations

10 November 2011

The Prime Minister commits $2 billion over 6 years to phase in increases to SACS workers pay.

Address to social and community sector workers

17 November 2011

FWA President Giudice releases a statement on the conduct of the modern award review to commence from January 2012. It notes that the review will take place mainly by application to vary a modern award.

[2011] FWA 7975

25 November 2011

The ACTU responds to employer criticisms arguing that in addition to job security concerns at Qantas and the nurse-to-patient ratio disputes in Victorian hospitals, many campaigns take up from the 2008 round, when reduced hours, lower pay increases or even wage freezes were negotiated to keep businesses going. 

How can IR reform protect workers’ rights but drive productivity outcomes for the economy?

29 November 2011

FWA Full bench upholds an enterprise agreement which facilitates the pre-payment of annual leave as a loaded rate, with the leave taken as unpaid but conforming with the NES.

Mr Irving Warren; Hull-Moody Finishes Pty Ltd; Mr Romano Sidotti [2011] FWAFB 6709 (29 November 2011)

30 November 2011

AiG’s Heather Ridout argues that the FW Act has not only increased union power but there has also been a discernable negative change in union culture and behaviour and that unions are pursuing matters such as job security clauses and restrictions on outsourcing.

Taking Charge of our Future

1 December 2011

Industrial dispute data shows that working days lost have increased from 20,000 in the March 2011 quarter to 101,000 in the September quarter, leading business such as Rio Tinto, Woodside, BHP and others to criticise the Fair Work Act and the ease by which unions can take industrial action.

Industrial Disputes, Australia, Sep 2011

Unions create a state of discord

7 December 2011

ABS releases national accounts data which shows GDP to have increased by 2.1% and real unit labour costs to have increased marginally over the 12 months to September 2011 but still 7% lower compared to 1997.

Australian National Accounts: National Income, Expenditure and Product, September 2011, 5206.0

12 December 2011

Bill Shorten MP replaces Senator Evans as Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations while retaining his superannuation and financial services responsibilities.

Pressure on Shorten to act

20 December 2011

WR Minister Shorten releases details of a three-member panel to review the FW Act, made up of Reserve Bank board member John Edwards, former Federal Court judge Michael Moore and Sydney University Law Professor Ron McCallum. The panel will report by 31 May 2012.

FW Act review: terms of reference

Reaction to Fair Work Act inquiry positive

12 January 2012

DEEWR releases public notice on the FW Act inquiry process; submissions due by 17 February 2012 with supplementary submissions to be accepted by 2 March and signals release of a Background Paper.

FW Act review website

Background Paper (released 18 Jan 2012)


20 January 2012

Assistant Treasurer Mark Arbib releases terms of reference for a Productivity Commission inquiry into the process for the selection and ongoing review of superannuation funds to be included in modern awards as default funds. The review to be completed by October 2012.

Terms of reference, Productivity Commission inquiry into default superannuation funds in modern awards

23 January 2012

FWA makes its first workplace determination under the FW Act in relation to Qantas and its licenced engineers.

Australian Licenced Aircraft Engineers Association, The v Qantas Airways Limited [2012] FWAFB 236 (23 January 2012)

25 January 2012

FWA approves an enterprise agreement containing an ‘opt-out’ clause allowing employees to be paid at no lesser salary based on their contract of employment, should they opt out of the agreement.

Newlands Coal Surface Operations Agreement 2010 [2012] FWAFB 721 (25 January 2012)

3 February 2012

The Australian Human Resource Institute releases its 3rd survey of HR practitioners’ views on federal labour law.  Concerns included vexatious unfair dismissal, adverse action claims and a reduction in employer flexibility in hiring.

Is HR view of Fair Work Act really 'negative'? 

10 February 2012

The High Court allows a Federal Court finding to stand which held that Rio Tinto's Pilbara iron ore employees were not covered by a non-union agreement. The Federal Court found the five-year agreement made by subsidiary Pilbara Iron Company (Services) Pty Ltd in 2008, initially with 10 employees, never came into operation.

Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union v Pilbara Iron Company (Services) Pty Ltd [2011] FCAFC91 

15 February 2012

In Senate Estimates hearings, FWA confirms a 150 page report on the Health Service Union was made at the end of 2011. It finds 25 possible breaches of the WR Act’s Registration and Accountability of Organisations Schedule and/or HSU rules in respect of the Victorian No.1 branch and in a separate investigation, possible contraventions by the National Office. A review into the delays in completing the investigations will be undertaken.

Committee Transcript

27 February 2012

Minister Shorten announces the appointment of Justice Iain Ross as President of FWA following the retirement of Justice Giudice. Other appointments included deputy presidents Anna Booth and Gregory Smith. Geoff Bull, David Gregory and Bernie Riordan were appointed as commissioners.

New President leads Fair Work Australia

23 March 2012

Iain Ross becomes President of FWA.

New President leads Fair Work Australia

3 April 2012

FWA refers a 1000 page report on the Health Services Union to the Cwlth Director of Public Prosecutions, promising to release the report to the Senate in a further 6 weeks.

DPP examines Thomson affair

5 April 2012

The ACTU (and later UnionsNSW) move to suspend the Health Services Union from respective affiliations.

Govt may toughen laws against corrupt union leaders

12 April 2012

Minister Shorten outlines factors to improve productivity and the future of work.

Future of employment an intriguing work in progress

20 April 2012

The Federal Court FB confirms that workers facing an employer that refuses to bargain are not obliged to seek a majority support order before seeking protected industrial action.

J.J. Richards & Sons Pty Ltd v Fair Work Australia [2012] FCAFC 53

26 April 2012

Minister Shorten seeks to put the HSU East Branch into administration, alleging dysfunctionality over the Branch’s management, a tactic queried by the Federal Court.

Judge queries Shorten move against HSU            

27 April 2012 FWA President Ross proposes that the 282 applications received in the Modern Award Review will be dealt by separate full benches under the common issues of: penalty rates, apprentice and trainee wages, award flexibility, annual leave and public holidays. Statement – Award Modernisation [2012] FWA 3514 (27 April 2012)
28 April 2012  Opposition Leader Abbott and Shadow Workplace Relations Minister Abetz release a plan for accountability of registered organisations. It will create a new commission within the Fair Work Ombudsman and increase penalties by up to 90 times for breaches by officials. The Coalition's plan for better transparency and accountability of registered organisations
2 May 2012 Shadow Workplace Relations Minister Abetz signals a Coalition review of the FW Act should it win the next federal election in an address to Ai Group Abetz has warning for unions
7 May 2012 The Senate Education, Employment and Workplace Relations Committee releases the 1100 page FWA report on the National Office of the HSU which finds 181 potential contraventions of the union rules and/or the registered organisations provisions of the Workplace Relations Act. Report of the FWA investigation into the HSU National Office 
10 May 2012 The Federal Court confirms that when taking employer response action (usually a lockout or stand-down) in enterprise bargaining negotiations with employees, the action need not be proportionate to the employee industrial action (usually bans, limitations or a strike).  Australian and International Pilots Association v Fair Work Australia [2012] FCAFC 65 (10 May 2012)
11 May 2012 The Federal Court rejects the SDA's application for a judicial review of FWA’s decision to allow 90-minute after-school shifts for school students working after school in retail jobs. Shop, Distributive and Allied Employees Association v National Retail Association (No 2) [2012] FCA 480 (11 May 2012)


[1].       Workplace Relations Amendment (Work Choices) Act 2005 which significantly amended the Workplace Relations Act 1996. The constitutional issues have been reviewed in the Parliamentary Library’s bills digests on both the Work Choices and Fair Work Bills; see respectively Bills Digest No. 66 2005-06 and Bills Digest No. 81 2008-09.

[2].       P Reith, Breaking the gridlock, towards a simpler national workplace relations system, (3 volumes) Department of Employment and Workplace Relations, October 2000.

[3].       For further information on political party and union workplace/industrial relations policies from 2004, see: S O’Neill and I Kuruppu, Workplace relations reforms: a chronology of business, community and government responses, Background note, Parliamentary Library, Canberra, 6 December 2007, viewed 21 September 2009,;query=Id%3A%22library%2Fprspub%2FRU1T6%22

[4].       Quoted in M Shaw and D Cooke, ‘Unions back federal system, wasteful court challenge blasted’, The Age, 26 October 2006.

[5].       R Grayden ‘Gone but not forgotten R.I.P. Work Choices 26.3.2006-24.11.2007; A brief but spectacular life’, Australian Industrial Law News, Issue 11, CCH, 6 December 2007.

[6].       P Punch and M Sheils, ‘Labor — “junking” or only “massaging” Work Choices? Australian Industrial Law News, Issue 10, CCH, 5 November 2007.

© Commonwealth of Australia

In essence, you are free to copy and communicate this work in its current form for all non-commercial purposes, as long as you attribute the work to the author and abide by the other licence terms. The work cannot be adapted or modified in any way. Content from this publication should be attributed in the following way: Author(s), Title of publication, Series Name and No, Publisher, Date.

To the extent that copyright subsists in third party quotes it remains with the original owner and permission may be required to reuse the material.

Inquiries regarding the licence and any use of the publication are welcome to

This work has been prepared to support the work of the Australian Parliament using information available at the time of production. The views expressed do not reflect an official position of the Parliamentary Library, nor do they constitute professional legal opinion.

Feedback is welcome and may be provided to: Any concerns or complaints should be directed to the Parliamentary Librarian. Parliamentary Library staff are available to discuss the contents of publications with Senators and Members and their staff. To access this service, clients may contact the author or the Library‘s Central Entry Point for referral.