Article courtesy of Smart Company

Businesses reliant on more than 100,000 zombie agreements have been put on notice by the Fair Work Commission (FWC), thanks to a massive spreadsheet of ageing workplace agreements set to automatically dissolve at the end of 2023.

The document, made publicly available on 14th February 2023, effectively lists thousands of businesses still reliant on enterprise bargaining agreements brokered before 2010.

Some are decades old, including workplace agreements which expired in the early 1990s.

Companies listed include the local arms of multinational corporations like 3M, through to many thousands of local and small businesses which may have ‘set and forget’ their workplace agreements years ago.

The spreadsheet comes months after the passage of the Secure Jobs, Better Pay omnibus bill, which will ensure all workplace agreements established before January 1, 2010, will cease to operate on December 7 this year.

The elimination of zombie agreements is a major goal for the new Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations Tony Burke, who says brokering new agreements will modernise the pay and conditions of workers.

Despite making the elimination of zombie agreements a key part of his workplace relations platform, Burke said the scale of outdated agreements took him by surprise.

“When we legislated to bring this rort to an end I never imagined the problem was so widespread.” Burke said in a statement.

“These zombie agreements have been a major loophole undercutting pay and conditions.”

“Without the Government’s Secure Jobs, Better Pay laws we may never have known the full extent of them.”

The spreadsheet is part of a broader campaign to fill gaps in the workplace relations system, Burke said.

“The Government will continue to bring forward legislation to close the loopholes undercutting pay and conditions.”

Businesses without any employees covered by those zombie agreements are not required to take further action.

However, businesses reliant on those outdated agreements, many of which date to the WorkChoices era, have until June 6, 2023 to provide a written alert to any covered employees.

Employers who fail to alert affected employees may face compliance action or civil penalties levelled by the FWC.

For workers and businesses which choose not to broker a new deal and ‘revive’ their zombie agreement, extensions are available at the discretion of the FWC.

Any agreements on the list which are terminated before the sunsetting date will appear on the separate FWC enterprise agreement lookup page.

While the list is extensive and covers many businesses still reliant on elderly workplace agreements, the FWC states it is incomplete and subject to further additions.

Separately, it appears not every firm listed is still active.

One agreement, which launched in 1993 and technically expired in 1995, covers spinning mill staff of the famous underwear brand Bonds.

However, Bonds’ manufacturing operations moved offshore after the brand’s owners declared its Australian spinning mills were surplus to demand in 2010.

“The Commonwealth does not guarantee, and accepts no legal liability whatsoever arising from or connected to, the accuracy, reliability, currency or completeness of any material” contained on the spreadsheet or related sites, a disclaimer reads.

You can access the spreadsheet here.

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