2016: TTIA and industrial relations - The Year in Review
WELL, IF you’re like me, you will be uttering the same humble words you did this time last year, where did that year go and why is time going so fast! You know the answer deep down, time goes faster once you turn 40, and thereafter it just gathers momentum without empathy and totally against one’s own free will!
That said, it is worth examining what were the main industrial relations issues to emerge from 2016 and for the industry was it a win, lose or draw.
In terms of what could be termed significant decisions, there was a decision by Fair Work Australia allowing variations to annual leave provisions in modern awards in relation to cashing out annual leave, excessive leave, granting annual leave and method for payment for leave.
The acknowledgement by FWA of the fact that employees often seek to cash out leave from their employer is welcome, albeit long overdue, and with limitations on the amount and some associated rules included in the process. Similarly, it is commonsense that employers be allowed to make annual leave payments by EFT in accordance with their pay cycle rather than having to make payment before the employee proceeds on annual leave. Too often it seems the bureaucracy and its institutions are playing catch up with the reality of what happens in the workplace.
Another FWC decision during 2016 varied the overtime provisions in modern awards to allow an agreement with an employee to take time off in lieu of overtime instead of being paid overtime based on time for time, i.e. 2 hours overtime worked equals 2 hours’ time off.
This provision may prove useful, although again it does come armed with the usual onerous requirements to have a separate written agreement with each employee for each pay period when the provision is applied. Yes, I know, as if you don’t already have enough reoccurring tedious paperwork! It also has rules about when the time off can be taken and so on.
You should consult TTIA on both the above issues when implementing those changes to leave and overtime.
In the middle of the year, we had a National Wage decision applying a 2.4% wage increase to employees. This was basically expected and fairly predictable.
Finally, we started the year with the Government seeking to introduce the Australian Building & Construction Commission to exert some pressure on those parties that operate on building sites to behave in a lawful and civil manner. At the time of writing, we are still awaiting the passing of that legislation in the Senate with the Labor opposition still opposing the concept.
That brings me to TTIA. The last year has without doubt presented some challenges but we remain focussed on continuing to cement our reputation as the key go-to in-house industrial relations provider of industrial/ HR advice and legal services to the industry. It’s an industrial unit that is unique in terms of its timber specific experience as well as its non-profit cost effective nature. We are grateful for the continued industry support from all sectors, as well as the support we get from other timber related organisations who refer the wider industry to us for specific legal assistance.
The TTIA Workplace Health & Safety Unit also is quite unique in the industry in providing in-house timber experts on WH&S issues across all sectors of our industry. The senior staff in this unit have been at TTIA for more than 20 years and the demand for safety management systems and audits continues to grow. It also demonstrates the willingness of industry to embrace world class safety systems and procedures. As an industry, we can be proud of this change from where we were in terms of safety when I first commenced at TTIA 25 years ago.
The year has seen TTIA form a series of strategic business partnerships to offer a vast range of business services and membership discounts that really are unique in the timber industry. We recently negotiated arrangements with two further organisations to provide 15% discounts to our Members on new fire extinguisher equipment as well as competitive work on fire safety systems. In addition, we have negotiated with an international organisation a 15% discount on members’ personal protective equipment and a range of workplace products. Members are advised to contact TTIA to access these offers.
The range of membership services, partners and discounts provided to TTIA members now extends to: Fuel Electricity Telephone Labour Recruitment Services Freight Forwarding Training Services Marketing/Website Site design Fire Systems Protective Personal Equipment Legal Work Place Health & Safety Drug & Alcohol Testing Services & Equipment Finance Business Insurances Lighting
On a closing note, a big thanks to John Hudswell (editor) and Australasian Timber for the opportunity to contribute to this magazine, to our loyal TTIA members and the industry as a whole. I always think this time of the year is not only a good time to recharge the batteries but reflect on what is really important. On that note, may you enjoy the festive season with family and friends. Have a great Christmas and I look forward to contributing next year!