Australia: Victorian State Election update: Labor is re-elected for a second term – what does this mean for industrial relations in Victoria over the next four years?

The Victorian state election on Saturday 24 November 2018 was characterised by large swings, with the Liberal party losing several previously safe seats and Premier Daniel Andrews successfully leading the ALP to a clear victory, having significantly increased its majority.

So what will this mean for businesses?

Victorians should expect substantial commercial activity, having embraced Daniel Andrews’ agenda of building major infrastructure and supporting continued investment in schools and hospitals. Labor’s landslide victory in this election has also resulted in the addition of a number of union supporters to Victorian Parliament (there are now 10 members of parliament with union affiliation, including the newly elected Mark Richards, Ingrid Stitt and Gary Maas). There is likely to be substantial focus on the industrial relations agenda, given Labor’s strong result and the recent appointment of Tim Pallas (former ACTU secretary) as new Industrial Relations Minister on Friday 30 November 2018.

In this article, we briefly shed light on the industrial relations policies and legislation that were announced by Labor in the lead up to this election, and what this will mean for business activity in the state of Victoria over the next four years.

  • Public Sector Bargaining: Labor will legislate to enable public sector employees (excluding law enforcement officers) to collectively bargain over and reach agreement on matters such as minimum staffing levels, restrictions on how staff are engaged or the number of casual, seasonal or fixed term employees by re-introducing the Fair Work (Commonwealth Powers) Amendment Bill (Vic)
  • Criminalise wage theft: Labor plans to introduce a criminal offence for deliberate underpayment of wages. Under the proposed laws, employers who withhold wages, superannuation or other employee entitlements will face fines of $190,284 and up to 10 years in jail;
  • Workplace manslaughter laws: Labor will introduce legislation so that employers whose negligence leads to the death of an employee will face up to 20 years in jail or fines of almost $16 million (currently the maximum fine is $3,171,400);
  • Wage inspectorate: Labor has pledged to create a new inspectorate to police wage underpayments for amounts up to $50,000. This new body will ensure that claims for underpayment are heard within 30 days and that court filing fees are reduced;
  • Gender Equality Bill: It is expected the Gender Equality Bill (2018) (Vic) will pass Victorian Parliament following the election of Labor for a second term. This bill proposes that government departments, the public sector and local government achieve gender equality through quotas, action plans and reporting;
  • Labour Hire Licensing: It is expected that the Labour Hire Licensing Act 2018 (Vic) will receive a commencement date (before 1 November 2019). This Act seeks to establish a business licensing system to regulate the provision of labour hire services and protect vulnerable employees. The Labor government has recently appointed Steve Dargavel (former AMWU state secretary) to manage the Labour Hire Licensing Authority (which will be responsible for licensing providers and undertaking enforcement and compliance activity) and we expect that the implementation of the Act will be a priority of government;
  • Investigation into the gig economy: Labor has launched an inquiry into the on-demand workforce and the gig economy in Victoria, specifically examining payment and treatment of gig economy employees. This inquiry, set to be chaired by former Commonwealth Fair Work Ombudsman Natalie James, will examine the application and effectiveness of workplace laws in this area; and
  • ‘Local Jobs First’ Commissioner: Labor has introduced a new Commissioner to advocate for Victorian business and workers at the national level, in order to ensure Victorians receive a greater share of government projects.

Moving forward, it will be interesting to see how Labor’s landslide victory in Victoria empowers the ALP to drive their industrial relations agenda further at a federal Level in light of the pending federal election next year.

Our team will be monitoring all further developments.

For more information on this topic or for advice on how these reforms may impact your business, please contact:

Anthony Wood
Anthony Wood
Partner, Melbourne
Email | Profile
+61 3 9288 1544
Natalie Gaspar
Natalie Gaspar
Special Counsel, Melbourne
Email | Profile
+61 3 9288 1091
Rohan Doyle
Rohan Doyle
Partner, Melbourne
Email | Profile
+61 3 9288 1099
Nicholas Ogilvie
Nicholas Ogilvie
Partner, Melbourne
Email | Profile
+61 3 9288 1380

 

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Filed under Industrial/workplace relations, collective bargaining, works councils, Jurisdiction: Australia

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