The Fair Work Act 2009 provides for several ways for bargaining representatives to deal with disputes or issues which arise during the bargaining process for a proposed enterprise agreement.
See Fair Work Act s.240
Whilst negotiating a new enterprise agreement, a bargaining representative can make an application for the Fair Work Commission to deal with a dispute between bargaining representatives about the agreement.
Applying for the Commission to deal with a bargaining dispute can be a way to advance negotiations if the bargaining representatives have reached an impasse or deadlock in their negotiations (although it is not necessary to have reached an impasse or deadlock before seeking the Commission's assistance).
Employer initiates or agrees to bargain for a proposed enterprise agreement
Employer issues employees with a notice of employee representational rights
Employees may appoint bargaining representatives
Good faith bargaining
Representatives bargain for a proposed enterprise agreement
Application to deal with a bargaining dispute
The Commission deals with the bargaining dispute
Employer asks employees to approve proposed enterprise agreement (by voting)
Bargaining representative lodges enterprise agreement with the Commission for approval
The Commission approves enterprise agreement
If the proposed enterprise agreement is:
the application may be made by one bargaining representative, whether or not the other bargaining representatives for the agreement have agreed to the making of the application.
Otherwise, a bargaining representative can only make an application if all of the bargaining representatives for the agreement agree.
If the proposed single-enterprise agreement is a greenfields agreement, and there has been a notified negotiation period for the agreement which has ended, then a bargaining representative cannot make an application for a bargaining dispute.
The Commission may deal with a bargaining dispute (other than by arbitration) as it considers appropriate, including by:
The Commission may only arbitrate the dispute if all of the bargaining representatives for the proposed agreement have agreed that it may do so.