Month in Review | November 2021

In the News

  • The Australian Red Cross entered into Enforceable Undertakings with the Fair Work Ombudsman, after self-reporting underpayments during an internal review. It is estimated that they will back-pay employees over $25 million.
  • Patrick Terminals applied to the Fair Work Commission to end industrial action by members of the Maritime Union of Australia  on the basis that MUA’s strikes at four of its docks would have caused significant damage to the Australian economy. The MUA stated that the primary cause of any damage to Australia’s economy is from the COVID-19 pandemic, and not the industrial actions launched by MUA.
  • The Australian Education Union advised its members to instantly commence a one hour stop-work if a government MP visits a state school. The teachers’ union is using the direction as a means to increase pressure in its campaign for better pay and conditions.
  • The House of Representative’s Standing Committee on Employment, Education and Training is conducting an inquiry into the Fair Work Commission’s 2019/2020 Annual Report. The Committee is seeking submissions from the FWC and selected employee and employer groups about how policy responses designed to manage the COVID-19 pandemic may impact the FWC’s caseload.
  • StarTrack and the Transport Workers Union have reached an in-principle agreement, securing annual pay rises of 3% for employees and a rule requiring for work to be offered to existing employees prior to contracting out.
  • In October 2021, BHP Billiton’s Mt Arthur coal mine stood down employees who could not provide evidence of their vaccination status. The CFMEU has taken the matter to the Fair Work Commission.

In the Courts

  • The High Court found that a ‘backpacker tax’ was contrary to an international “double tax” agreement that Australia has with Britain and a number of other nations.
  • The Fair Work Commission has ruled that fruit pickers are no longer to be paid piece rate and must be guaranteed a minimum wage under the Horticulture Award.
  • The NSW Supreme Court rejected another challenge to the NSW Public Health Orders, which requires that ambulance drivers be fully vaccinated by 30 November 2021 to continue working in that capacity.
  • The Victorian Supreme Court dismissed an application for interlocutory and permanent injunctions suspending vaccine directions made under the Public Health Act and restrained the Victorian Chief Health Officer from making further vaccine directions.
  • The Fair Work Commission ordered that an applicant be back paid for all entitlements she had lost due to an unlawful stand down on the basis of NSW government health orders prohibiting non-essential construction work.