Inquiry into the Workplace Relations Framework actu submission to the Productivity Commission

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The FW Commission

As alluded to above and in Chapters 11-16 & 18 & 21 in particular, there is room for the FW Commission’s jurisdiction to be modified and broadened in order for the industrial relations system to provide more effective pathways to resolving rights and interest based disputes. Further, as we raised in Chapter 8, reforms to the minimum wage setting framework should be pursued to more closely align that function with the distributional purpose of the industrial relations system.

Within the footprint of its present functions, the FW Commission is in our experience functioning highly effectively subject to three concerns considered elsewhere: the Award review process (see Chapter 9), the processing of Right of Entry matters (see Chapter 6) and the inflexibility and delay in the processing of unfair dismissal matters (see Chapter 18). Unions report the FW Commission processes as generally user friendly, especially compared to other institutions. In particular, unions value the ability to file matters electronically, use email for routine correspondence and ease of access to transcripts and decisions. The ACTU and other stakeholders recently reported our experiences to KPMG, who had been appointed by the General Manager of the FW Commission to conduct a benchmarking study on the FW Commission which looked at its effectives as compared to other tribunals and courts. We are unaware of whether the KPMG study has been completed. Both its findings and its methodology may be of interest to the PC.

The raw numbers contained in the annual reports of the FW Commission provide a sense of the significant caseload of the FW Commission and in that context it is to be commended for the fact that criticism of it are at the margins of exceptions and well distant from being the rule.

The FW Commission 2013-14 Annual Report indicates that the FW Commission:

  • Received 37,066 applications;

  • Conducted 19, 620 hearings and conferences;

  • Made 13,302 decisions, orders or determinations; and

  • Had 3,259,939 web site visits and 208,102 telephone inquiries.

A breakdown of the total applications the FW Commission received for the 2013-14 reporting period743 appears in Table 25 below.

Table 25: Breakdown of applications made to the FW Commission 2013/14

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