AMMA voices concerns over Forward with Fairness

THE Australian Mines and Metals Association has called on the Rudd Government for more clarification of the rights of workers and employers under the Forward with Fairness scheme.
AMMA voices concerns over Forward with Fairness AMMA voices concerns over Forward with Fairness AMMA voices concerns over Forward with Fairness AMMA voices concerns over Forward with Fairness AMMA voices concerns over Forward with Fairness

Prime Minister Kevin Rudd

Christine Feary

AMMA yesterday released its draft submission to the Federal Government voicing its concerns over the proposed National Employment Standards (NES), which will apply to all corporations.

While the draft submission said AMMA supported the introduction of a range of minimum standards to protect employees, it said these standards must be flexible to account for different working environments and situations.

It also asked for clarification of the capacity for non-award employees, such as high income earners, supervisors and people covered by workplace agreements, to access flexibilities in the NES.

“The majority of persons employed in the resources sector work in remote locations that operate on a continuous basis every day of the year,” AMMA said.

“The most common shift is 12 hours long and it is estimated that 95 percent of resource sector employees work rostered overtime in addition to the 38-hour week.

“These working arrangements are a long way from the Monday to Friday 7.6-hour day which might be worked in an office in Canberra.

“The legislated minimum standards should be set at a level designed to secure appropriate minimum entitlements … and also provide sufficient flexibility to allow the resources sector to accommodate existing flexible working arrangements."

In addition to flexibility provisions for non-award employees, concerns raised in AMMA's draft submission included maximum weekly hours and public holidays.

Non-award employees

Under the proposed structure of Forward with Fairness, managerial and senior employees, high-income employees and employees in emerging industries, or those who perform work similar to work historically covered by awards, will not be covered by awards.

“AMMA estimates that between 30 percent and 50 percent of persons employed in the resources sector are not bound by an award and … up to 35 percent of the resources sector could fall within the definition of high-income earners," the association said.

AMMA submitted two suggestions on how to address non-award covered employees:

  • Provide greater flexibility in the National Employment Standards; and
  • Include a schedule of flexibility provisions with the NES which will apply to all non-award employees.

Maximum weekly hours

AMMA said the proposed standard did not take into account industries such as the resource sector, where it said 95% of employees work more than the average 38 hours a week.

“The proposed standard, like the existing legislation, fails to provide a mechanism for employers and employees to agree to work a roster which regularly exceeds 38 hours per week," AMMA said.

It submitted a suggestion that the standard be varied to allow hours and wages to be averaged over a period of up to 12 months, rather than on a weekly basis.

Public holidays

Under the proposed standard days considered to be public holidays appear to include substitute public holidays under a state or territory law, meaning that if Christmas Day fell on a Saturday the following Monday would be considered a substitute day.

AMMA said that in some cases this could result in employees being entitled to penalty rates for both days and could allow an employee to refuse to work on both the public holiday and the substitute day.

It submitted that an employee should obtain the benefit of either the public holiday itself or the substitute day, but not both.