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Senate allows bargaining fees with comprehensive safeguards.

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21 August 2002

Senate allows bargaining fees with comprehensive safeguards

Today the Senate amended the Government’s Bargaining Fees Bill to allow employers and employees to agree collectively in the workplace on the payment of bargaining fees, with comprehensive safeguards.

The amendments moved by the Democrats and supported by Labor represent a fair and reasonable attempt to clarify the circumstances in which a bargaining fee can be charged, and stand in stark contrast to Tony Abbott’s ideological grandstanding and scaremongering.

The amendments provide that a bargaining fee can only be charged if -

• Before bargaining starts, employees are advised that a bargaining fee will be sought in the agreement.

• The fee is clearly explained in writing to employees in advance - including details of the amount payable, the method and timing of payment, and the services to be provided in return.

• The amount of the fee is “fair and reasonable” (which is determined by the Australian Industrial Relations Commission, after any employee affected has had the opportunity to make submissions to the Commission).

• The clause of the agreement containing the bargaining fee is genuinely agreed to by a valid majority of employees, in addition to the other terms of the agreement.

• For new employees (who are employed after the agreement has been voted on), the fee applies on a pro rata basis.

These amendments ensure that bargaining fees can be democratically voted on by a valid majority of employees in a workplace, are set by the Industrial Relations Commission at a fair and reasonable level, and do not involve coercion.

They bring Australian law into line with countries such as the United States and Canada which allow enterprise bargaining to be funded by bargaining fees.

Not surprisingly, the Howard Government rejected the amendments and signalled its intention to carry on scaremongering and misleading on bargaining fees. Consequently, the Bill looks doomed for defeat.

While the Howard Government continues with its single-minded pursuit of double dissolution triggers, Labor continues to work for reasonable and balanced outcomes.

For further information: Jonathan Kirkwood 0425 231 690

Shadow Attorney-General and Shadow M inister for W orkplace Relations

Robert McClelland MP