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Enterprise agreement negotiations in the NTPS take place between the Commissioner for Public Employment, NTPS agencies and employees’ bargaining representatives (usually unions representing employees).
The enterprise bargaining process generally involves the following:
Decision to commence negotiating
Every enterprise agreement has a nominal expiry date as required by the Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth). Prior to reaching the expiry date of the current agreement, the employer (which in the NTPS is the Commissioner for Public Employment) or employee bargaining representative can decide they want to initiate (commence) bargaining for a new agreement.
Most current agreements contain a provision for the parties to commence bargaining
4 months prior to the expiry date.
The Employer to give Notice to employees of their representational rights
Once the Commissioner for Public Employment decides he/she wants to commence bargaining for a new agreement, he/she must give all employees who will be covered by the agreement a copy of the notice of employee representational rights.
The notice explains that an employee has the right to be represented by a person or an organisation in bargaining for an enterprise agreement but, in certain circumstances, must make such an authorisation in writing.
Authorisation is required in writing if the employee:
- wants to be their own bargaining representative; or
- wants to appoint a person (other than their union) as their bargaining representative.
An employee who is a union member has that union as their default bargaining representative (provided the union is entitled to represent the industrial interests of the employee for work to be performed under the agreement) unless the employee has specified in writing that he or she does not wish to be represented by the union.
How will the Commissioner give this notice?
The Commissioner for Public Employment will issue a Bulletin to all staff covered by the agreement being bargained via an email Bulletin. This Bulletin will also be placed on the Enterprise Agreement Negotiations website.
Agencies ensure those employees who don't have access to email have access to a copy of the Bulletin.
How do I know which agreement I am covered by?
Employees can check which agreement covers them by visiting the Current NTPS Enterprise Agreement page on the Office of the Commissioner for Public Employment website or contacting their agency human resource team.
What is meant by bargaining representatives?
In the NTPS, the following are bargaining representatives:
- the Commissioner for Public Employment (who is the employer);
- any union who has a member that would be covered by the agreement (unless the member has specified in writing that he or she does not wish to be represented by the union); and
- any person specified in writing as their bargaining representative by either an employer or employee who would be covered by the agreement.
'Good Faith Bargaining' Commences
Those involved in the bargaining process, including bargaining representatives, are required to bargain in good faith.
What is Good Faith Bargaining?
The following are the good faith bargaining requirements that a bargaining representative for a proposed enterprise agreement must meet:
- Attending, and participating in, meetings at reasonable times.
- Disclosing relevant information (other than confidential or commercially sensitive information) in a timely manner.
- Responding to proposals made by other bargaining representatives for the agreement in a timely manner.
- Giving genuine consideration to the proposals of other bargaining representatives for the agreement, and giving reasons for the bargaining representative's responses to those proposals.
- Refraining from capricious or unfair conduct that undermines freedom of association or collective bargaining.
- Recognising and bargaining with the other bargaining representatives for the agreement.
The good faith bargaining requirements do not require a bargaining representative to:
- Make concessions during bargaining for the agreement.
- Reach agreement on the terms that are to be included in the agreement.
Source: Fair Work Commission
How will I be kept informed of what happens during the bargaining process?
Employees will be kept informed through Bulletins and information sheets that are issued by the Commissioner for Public Employment, as required, and available on the Enterprise Agreement Negotiations website. Those employees who are members of the unions involved in the enterprise bargaining should also receive information from their unions.
Agreement is reached by the Parties
Once the bargaining representatives have reached agreement on the terms and conditions for employment, a draft agreement, and all other relevant information, is circulated to employees covered by that agreement to consider seven days before a vote is held.
How will I get access to the agreement?
In most cases, employees will have access to the agreement and its support materials through links sent to them via email. For those employees who do not have access to emails or the internet, the human resource units in their agencies will ensure that they have access to hard copies of the proposed agreement and support materials.
Employees vote and approve the agreement
An important part of the enterprise bargaining process is the ballot process. This gives employees covered by the draft agreement an opportunity to say whether they agree or not with the proposed terms and conditions.
There is no prescribed method for voting in the Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth). A vote can occur by ballot (postal vote), electronically or by other means. In the past the Office of the Commissioner for Public Employment has used a postal vote system through the NT Electoral Commission as well as internal voting arrangements.
An agreement is made when the majority of employees who cast a valid vote approve the agreement.
The Commissioner for Public Employment and at least one bargaining representative of employees must then sign and date the enterprise agreement.
How will I know it is time to vote?
The Commissioner for Public Employment will email a Bulletin to all staff covered by the enterprise agreement, notifying them that it is time to vote. The email Bulletin will also have clear information on the process for voting.
Information will also be posted on the Enterprise Agreement Negotiations webpage.
What do I need to do before the vote is cast?
It is important that your contact details are up to date on MyHR. This includes your postal, email and contact numbers.
What happens if I don't vote?
Voting is not compulsory and it is your choice if you choose to participate in the process. However this is your opportunity to voice your approval or disapproval of the proposed new terms and conditions.
Is the voting process anonymous?
The voting process is designed to record who has voted, but not how they voted. This is for two reasons: to ensure that each person only votes once; and to ensure an employee is not open to be put under any undue pressure based on the way they voted.
How will I know the outcome of the vote?
After the vote is counted the Commissioner for Public Employment will issue a Bulletin via email to all staff with the outcome of the vote. This Bulletin will also be placed on the Enterprise Agreement Negotiations webpage.
What happens if the majority of employees, who voted, don't approve the draft agreement?If the vote reveals that a majority of employees disapprove of the agreement, the parties may return to bargaining.
Fair Work Commission approval
If a majority of employees approve the new agreement the Commissioner for Public Employment will lodge the agreement with the Fair Work Commission for approval.
To approve an enterprise agreement, the Fair Work Commission must be satisfied that:
- the agreement has been made with the genuine agreement of those involved;
- the agreement passes the better off overall test and does not include any unlawful terms or designated outworker terms;
- the group of employees covered by the agreement was fairly chosen;
- the agreement specifies a date as its nominal expiry date (not more than four years after the date of Fair Work Commission approval);
- the agreement provides a dispute settlement procedure; and
- the agreement includes a flexibility clause and a consultation clause.
What is the 'better off overall test' (BOOT)?The Fair Work Commission must be satisfied that each award-covered employee and each prospective award-covered employee would be better off overall under the agreement than if the relevant modern or pre-reform award applied.
Implementation of the new agreement
An enterprise agreement comes into operation seven days after approval by the Fair Work Commission, or at a later date if specified in the agreement.As a requirement of the NTPS Wages Policy, no new conditions including wage increases can be implemented prior to a new agreement being approved by the Fair Work Commission.
Last updated: 08 March 2017