Tired waiting for your EBA to be approved by the Commission?

You’re not alone.

The just released FWC annual report makes for depressing reading. The FWC acknowledged it consistently fails to meet its own approval KPIs. It blames the failure to meet its own timeliness targets is because of “the rigorous process undertaken by the agreement triage team for determining whether statutory requirements are met“.

Say again? Because we are being so methodical and painstakingly careful (overly pedantic) with how we assess EBAs for approval, we couldn’t possibly be faster or more efficient to meet our own KPIs. Hmmm.

The ‘results on the ground’ from practitioners, union officials and HR managers is that the EBA process (from NERR through to FWC approval) is seen as a ‘joke’ and confidence in this process is at an all time low. This is borne out in the annual report:

  • for the first time ever, more EBAs were approved with undertakings than without (for the Jan–June 2017 period);
  • between the first six months of 2014 and the first six months of 2017, the proportion of EBAs approved without undertakings dropped from 74% to 39%;
  • in the same period, those approved with undertakings increased from 20% to 43%;
  • The number of agreements withdrawn (i.e.businesses deciding its all just too hard and will not bother with proceeding) has increased substantially to 700, almost triple the level three years ago.

Are employers and unions somehow becoming so much sloppier in their drafting of EBAs and completing the requisite lodgement documents (somehow now, compared to three years ago when the system was newer and more unfamiliar) that undertakings have needed to skyrocket? I don’t think so. Given AWAs aren’t an option for quick and effective agreement making, we need FWC to get its act together, start hitting the 6-8 week turnaround timelines and not ‘sweat the small stuff’ with content and wording, before agreement making in this country grinds to a halt (if it has not already).

Do you agree? Or do you think the FWC have the process and balance ‘about right’, in your experience, given the legislative tests they have to administer?


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