WA Industrial Relations

Industrial relations

Our team advises both corporate and public sector employers on all aspects of industrial relations law.

We represent employers in industrial disputes before Fair Work Australia and the Federal Court, and we provide advice on enterprise bargaining, and on the effect of the Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth) in all jurisdictions. A number of our team are either accredited mediators or have undertaken comprehensive mediation training with LEADR.

Our services

Develop industrial strategies

Our team is consulted by large employers to develop complex industrial strategies for their businesses. We work with both international employers entering the Australian industrial landscape for the first time, and for national employers who are expanding their business offerings into new areas where they do not have existing union relationships.
 
We have advised and developed numerous Greenfields agreements, often with union assistance, based on the strong relationships we have developed over time with Australia's largest unions.

Enterprise bargaining

The Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth) has introduced a raft of new provisions which employers must follow when making an enterprise agreement. Our team has significant experience in advising clients on how to apply these provisions to ensure that they can successfully negotiate and make agreements, and have them approved by Fair Work Australia.
 
We have particular experience advising clients on the content of agreements, on the requirements of the "good faith" bargaining provisions and in relation to the procedural steps that must be taken in order for an agreement to be made and approved.

We regularly appear before Fair Work Australia in applying for approval of clients' enterprise agreements, including making submissions as to why an agreement passes the "better off overall" test.

Industrial disputes

We have handled disputes involving a number of different unions and across a range of different sectors. Our experience includes advising employers on industrial action that arises from stalled negotiations over enterprise agreements, including in relation to applications brought by unions for "majority support determinations" and "secret ballots".

We regularly advise employers on how to deal with industrial action, particularly in respect of the defensive measures they can use to reduce the effect of any industrial action. While there are sometimes legal solutions to these disputes – such as seeking orders from Fair Work Australia to stop the industrial action – we also advise employers on the practical steps they can take to minimise the detrimental effect any industrial action may have on their business.

Our team also works with clients in both the private and public sector to deal with disputes notified to Fair Work Australia (or its predecessor) in enterprise agreements or awards. Members of our team often appear on behalf of employers before Fair Work Australia in these disputes, both at the conciliation stage and if the matter is arbitrated.

Union right of entry

Our team has extensive experience in advising employers on how to handle requests for entry by union officials and in making sure that all parties comply with their statutory obligations. We are experienced in making applications on behalf of employers to Fair Work Australia in relation to union officials who fail to comply with their obligations.

We provide advice to employers on what to do if a union arrives at their premises seeking to gain entry. Union right of entry is an issue that arises under both the Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth) and under state occupational health and safety law. Given our expertise across both these fields, we are ideally placed to advise on all aspects of union right of entry.

We regularly provide training to employers to ensure that their key employees are aware of their rights and obligations in respect of union right of entry.

Workplace change

Implementing workplace change - such as introducing new technology, moving to a different work location or implementing a significant restructure - can be extremely challenging for employers.

Our team advises employers on how to best manage all kinds of workplace change, including advising on how to prepare comprehensive plans and strategies to avoid industrial conflict, as well helping employers comply with all relevant legal obligations.

The most common conflict in this area arises from employers failing to consult with affected employees. We help employers to develop communication plans to ensure compliance with their consultation obligations.

Workplace rights and adverse action litigation

The concept of "workplace rights" is relatively new to Australian employment law, having been introduced on 1 July 2009 when the Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth) commenced operation.

Our team dealt extensively with the "freedom of association" provisions under the previous legislation, which were broadly equivalent to the new "workplace rights" provisions.

We successfully obtained the first substantive decision on what constitutes unlawful adverse action under the union membership provisions of the Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth). We defeated a claim brought by an employee that his employer – a tertiary education institution – had discriminated against him on grounds of his union activity. The matter is currently on appeal to the Full Bench of the Federal Court.

In addition to our extensive litigation experience in this area, we regularly advise clients on the steps they should take to avoid conduct which might lead to a breach of the "adverse action" provisions.



Client success story

We assisted a large national employer in the drafting, negotiation and approval of a multi-union workplace agreement which covers over 30,000 of its employees. This included advising how to commence the process in accordance with legislative requirements, its dealings with the relevant unions (including the tensions developing between the unions) and the content of the agreement. 

We also helped our client plan out the complex steps it needed to take in order to put the agreement to a vote and to have it successfully approved by Fair Work Australia. 

The agreement was subsequently approved without the need for a formal hearing. Our client has ensured that it has certainty both for itself and for its employees in relation to their terms and conditions of employment. 

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