Important win in QIRC

Important decision handed down by Queensland Industrial Relations Commission

By Hall Payne LawyersMarch 1, 2018Latest News, Industrial Relation
On 21 February 2018 the Full Bench of the Queensland Industrial Relations Commission handed down its decision in Electrical Trades Union and ors v Brisbane City Council. The case was a test case in relation to the operation of the agreement making provisions in the Industrial Relations Act 2016. The decision makes clear that, unlike the Fair Work Act 2009, in the state system, the agreement of unions involved in negotiations is a prerequisite that cannot be bypassed in reaching an agreement.

Negotiations for a new single certified agreement for the workers at the Council had been ongoing for over a year. Some of the unions had applied for a scope order to negotiate a separate agreement for their members. The Council opposed the scope order application and it was dismissed in August 2017.

The Council then attempted to bypass those unions and sought to request employees vote on a proposed certified agreement prior to obtaining the agreement of all of the relevant unions. Hall Payne Lawyers responded by commencing proceedings on behalf of its clients; the Electrical Trades Union, the Construction, Forestry Mining and Energy Union and the Australian Manufacturing Workers Union.

The unions sought an injunction at the end of last year to prevent the Council from proceeding with its proposed vote by employees and were successful in obtaining that injunction.

When the matter came on for final hearing before a Full Bench the Council argued that the legislation only required one or more of the parties (but not all) to propose the agreement in order for employees to be permitted to vote on it. The Council also argued that the unions were no longer negotiating parties because it had unilaterally decided that it didn’t want to negotiate with them any longer. The Council sought to deal directly with its employees with respect to a proposed agreement.

The unions argued that the legislation required the agreement of all the negotiating parties. The Full Bench agreed with our clients and declared that they were all negotiating parties and that the Council could not bypass them.

This is a very important decision in relation to the operation of the agreement making provisions in the Industrial Relations Act 2016 and will have an effect on the ongoing negotiations in a number of local Councils and within the state public service in Queensland.