'Complex' enterprise agreements expose operators

Operators are struggling to get enterprise agreements passed due to complexity of industrial relations law

By Brad Gardner | June 3, 2010

Transport operators trying to secure enterprise agreements are being caught out by a lack of understanding of industrial relations law.

Leading companies such as Thorman’s Transport and Kerry Logistics have all run into trouble recently with their proposed agreements.

Operators trying to introduce an enterprise agreement must comply with the Fair Work Act, which stretches beyond 600 pages and mandates employment requirements.

"I don’t think you can expect a transport operator to come to grips with all of it," the Secretary Treasurer of the NSW branch of the Australian Road Transport Industrial Organisation, Hugh McMaster, says.

"There are many traps there if you don’t know what you’re doing. This is a complex area of the law."

Rhino Transport had its agreement refused by Fair Work Australia because it referred to incorrect legislation and did not specify employment conditions.

Courier operator FedEx Express was forced to make significant changes to employment and leave provisions in its agreement to satisfy the Transport Workers Union and Fair Work Australia.

Despite the problems with agreements, McMaster says operators may still be better off using them because industry awards are not flexible enough to meet individual needs.

"An award is a simpler document, certainly, because it sets out in black and white what the requirements are…[But] the award is a one-size-fits all document," he says.

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