TAFE & Adult Provision Zombies and supported bargaining in the disability sector

Late last year, and after years of union campaigning, federal parliament passed the Secure Jobs, Better Pay Amendment Act 2022, which features some of the most significant changes to Australia’s industrial relations laws in over a decade. One of the key changes is the expiration of zombie agreements. All zombie agreements – those that were in place before 1 January 2010, and continue to be in operation, despite having passed their nominal expiry date – will automatically end on 6 December 2023, unless an extension is granted by the Fair Work Commission (FWC).

The AEU has 19 zombie agreements within the disability services sector, with clauses that are significantly better than those in the modern award.

The AEU wrote to employers with zombie agreements, offering them the opportunity to join the disability MEA or to negotiate for a new enterprise agreement. Several opted to commence bargaining for a new agreement, some opted to join the MEA, while a number chose neither option, or failed to respond.

In addition to the termination of zombie agreements, the Amendment Act also introduced a supported bargaining stream, which came into effect on 6 June this year. The supported bargaining stream is designed to assist and encourage employers and employees who may, for several reasons, find it difficult to bargain at their workplace.

The effect of a supported bargaining authorisation is that the employers listed in the authorisation are subject to certain rules in relation to the agreement, such as bargaining orders. Once a supported bargaining authorisation is made, the FWC has powers to assist parties during bargaining to reach an agreement that meets their needs. 

On 9 November, to progress bargaining at a number of organisations, the AEU and HACSU jointly applied to the FWC to approve a disability service supported bargaining authorisation.

The disability services listed on the bargaining order are: Amicus Community Services, Asteria Services, Aurora Support Services, Biala, Claro, Community Accessibility, Distinctive Options, George Gray Centre, Life Skills Victoria, Mambourin, McCallum, Menzies Support Services, Milparinka, Mirridong Services, Murray Valley Centre, Noweyung, and Windarring. (Note: some of these services have HACSU members only.)

The disability services currently in various stages of bargaining for a new agreement are: Carinya, DVP Health, and Onemda.

Ivanhoe Diamond Valley Disability Service has agreed to a mirrored agreement of the Disability MEA Rollover agreement 2023 and will become a party to the next disability MEA, which will commence bargaining in early 2024.

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