Pastoral Award – Update on 4-Year Review
The Fair Work Commission (FWC) is required to review all modern awards every four years. The review of the Pastoral Award commenced in 2014 but the first real ‘action’ in relation to the Pastoral Award did not occur until 30 March 2015.
There have been numerous submissions made from organisations including The Australian Workers Union (AWU), The National Farmers Federation (NFF), Business SA, Australian Business Industrial, NSW Business Chamber, an anonymous individual and even the Association of Australian Medical Research Institutes. The SCAA has made several ‘Reply Submissions’.
The AWU’s (2) submissions re Shearing:
1.Changes to Learner Shearers in the Award:
(i) a definition of a learner;
(ii) a provision that 1 in 4 stands will be given to, or reserved for, a learner who is available at the start of the shed;
(iii) a requirement for a learner to produce a certificate/log book to their employment; and
(iv) a guaranteed minimum rate of pay for learner shearers, which comprises the shed hand rate of pay plus an allowance for combs and cutters
The AWU is aiming to have 1 in 4 shearing stands reserved for a Learner. The NFF and Business SA have submitted that the AWU submission it is not acceptable under the terms of a modern award, in that the essence of the argument appears to be a term which requires an employer to allocate work to a particular class of employee, which cannot be included in a modern award.
The Shearing Contractors’ Association of Australia (SCAA) is opposed to the ‘compulsory’ nature of the AWU’s submission. That said, the SCAA Committee agrees with the concept of promoting ‘attraction and retention’ strategies of new and existing workers to the industry but felt that the Award was not the appropriate instrument to achieve this. The committee felt that reverting back to old Awards that include the ‘compulsory’ use of learner shearers in1-in-4 stands, would be impractical and overly-costly in some situations.
The SCAA committee also submitted that it was happy to have the inclusion of 1 in 4 stands reserved for a Learner included in the Pastoral Award as long as the words ‘where practical or where available’ (or similar) were included to remove the ‘compulsory’ nature of the provision.
2. Rate for crutching rams and ram stags
The AWU is seeking the insertion of an additional provision to the effect that double the minimum rates must be paid for crutching rams and ram stags based primarily on the fact that this provision was unintentionally omitted from the Modern Pastoral Award.
The SCAA and the NFF do not oppose the re-insertion of this provision however the Australian Business Industrial and The NSW Business Chamber Ltd questioned the validity and acceptability of the submission, arguing that it is not consistent with the modern awards objectives.
The NFF’s submission:
Clarification of Woolclassers’ allowance formula
The NFF is concerned that the way the clause for woolclasser allowances is worded at present, implies that woolclassers receiving the piece-work rate have not been paid (or entitled to) the relevant allowances. In reality, this is not the case because the piecework rate formula is simply a proportion of the relevant minimum weekly rate, and the weekly rate includes both the base rate and allowances relevant to the Woolclasser’s level of skill, experience and responsibility.
In other words, the Woolclassers’ formula is used to calculate allowances factored into both weekly rates of pay and piecework rates, and the Award should more easily reflect this position.
The SCAA and the AWU are not opposed to the submission.
Timetable for completion of 4 Yearly Review
With regard to the 3 Award variations (related to shearing) before the FWC, what appeared to be a position of agreement between the AWU, the NFF and the SCAA, it now appears that the matters of the Learner Provisions and the re-insertion of double rates for the crutching of Rams and Stags, will have to be heard by the Commission at a date yet to be scheduled which means that nothing will be settled until sometime on 2016.