7 May 2020

Renee Burns on new rules that “reduced the access period for proposed changes to existing enterprise agreements from seven days to 24 hours”: “Unlike the recently implemented JobKeeper scheme, the regulations as made apply to all businesses covered by existing enterprise agreements; with no requirement to demonstrate a downturn in business or other COVID-19 related detriment. The regulations do share a sunset clause with other COVID-19 responses — with the access period reverting to seven days after six months’ operation — however, any changes made to enterprise agreements under the regulations will continue in perpetuity. … ACTU Secretary, Sally McManus … [said] ‘…the effect of reducing this period to 24 hours leaves workers exposed to employers seeking to exploit the fear caused by the pandemic and to pressure workers into rushed agreements, locking out their access to advice’. … Changes made to enterprise agreements under the new regulations are permanent, accessible to all businesses and continue an identifiable pattern of weakening workers’ representations rights. As such, the new regulations — introduced without consultation — look to be less a necessary lifeline of flexibility and more like a wolf in COVID clothing.”