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Enterprise bargaining agreements
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One of the many challenges of operating in the construction industry is the mountain of paperwork you have to deal with. Contracts, site conditions, endless work health and safety documentation and, of course, the vagueness and endless detail of the Awards. If Awards simply provided a framework of what hours employees can work and the hourly rate they should be paid, that would be bearable, but they go into endless detail about every aspect of the employment arrangement. Employees going onsite to client’s premises may be covered by a different Award to employees in the workshop and again there will be a different Award still for employees in the office. And why does all this matter? Because if an employer inadvertently breaches a term of the Award they can be subject to large fines.

Thankfully, enterprise bargaining agreements (EBAs) provide an alternative to the Modern Award system, and once they are in place you won’t need to worry about a Modern Award for at least four years and – potentially – forever more. Swaab Attorneys has created a model EBA for the use of ASOFIA members. It has been drafted through extensive consultation with ASOFIA, which means it has been specifically designed to suit the shop fitting industry. The EBA has been drafted with the flexibility to be adapted and changed if required.

The main benefits of having an EBA are:

1. No more Modern Awards!
Once it’s in place it replaces any Modern Award that would apply to your business. That means you can have all your employees’ terms and conditions in one document, drafted in terms that everyone will understand.

2. Greater simplicity in wages
One of the difficulties with Awards is the complexity in working out what an employee is entitled to be paid – particularly for employees participating in physical work;there are various allowances they could be entitled to depending on what equipment they are using, how far they have to travel and even what the temperature is. An EBA will allow you to “wrap up” all these components into one “all in” rate of pay.

3. Keep the unions away
If you don’t have an EBA in place you run the risk that the CFMEU will come knocking on your door and will try to influence your employees to sign up to their model agreement which obviously won’t be drafted in terms favourable to your business. Having your own agreement in place isn’t an absolute shield from that happening but it is a good start.

So how does it all work? Consult your lawyer who will draft an EBA appropriate to your business. This then needs to be presented to your employees. There are specific timeframes employees must be given to enable them to consider the EBA, and the majority of employees have to vote to approve it. In addition, the Fair Work Commission must be satisfied that the employees are “better off overall” under the EBA than under the Awards. 

The process usually takes approximately three months. After which the EBA remains in force for at least four years and (if no one applies to have it removed after that period), potentially forever.

ASOFIA Members should contact the National Office to obtain a copy of the model EBA. Swaab Attorneys will then work with and guide members through the entire process.

Published In: Interior Fitout magazine Oct-Dec 2016 edition

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