A primary function of unions in Australia since the 1950's has been to secure a state or federal award that lays down the pay and conditions for workers in a particular job.
An Award is an document that provides the details of conditions of employment that an employer is obliged to provide for an employee, as agreed between Union(s) and employers, and which can be enforced under the Industrial Relations Act 1996 (Commonwealth).
Generally, awards deal with matters such as:
These awards have become very complex and detailed. Some, such as the old Metals and Engineering Award, had over 300 classifications, each with different rates of pay and conditions of work.
On page 2 is an extract from the Professional, Administrative, Computing, Clerical and Technical Award (the PACCT award).
This award was finalised in 1988 and it covers administrative staff such secretaries, office managers and accountants. The extract provided here (clause 8) covers overtime, and it illustrates the complexity and law-like nature of awards. Many people complain that they're impossible for ordinary workers to read: judge for yourself.
Awards are registered with the various federal and state Industrial Relations Commissions and employers are required to keep accurate records of employee's pay, days worked, deductions, sick leave entitlements and so on. State Departments of Labour police these requirements under the law, and penalties are applied for those in breach of it.
Both the federal and state governments play a role in industrial relations matters such as industrial awards. This is a legacy of the problems that had to be worked through between the states at the time of federation, and it creates astonishingly difficult legal problems. For example, industrial disputes may be put before either a federal or state tribunal. That is, there is a choice of jurisdiction.
In Australia about 90 per cent of workers are covered by awards. Of these, about 60 per cent are covered by federal awards and 40 per cent by state awards. Most workers in New South Wales and Queensland are covered by state awards, but federal awards apply more widely in the other states and territories. In Victoria, of course, the government has recently abolished state awards. Employers are now required to operate under contracts of employment. These generally retain the award pay and conditions, but vary penalty rates, starting and finishing times, holidays and so forth. Many unions are afraid of a fall in the standards under contracts, and are attempting to switch to federal awards.
Generally, Awards can be downloaded from the Internet at by visiting WageNet.
PROFESSIONAL, ADMINISTRATIVE, COMPUTING, CLERICAL AND TECHNICAL AWARD (PAACT AWARD)
8.2 Where the ordinary hours of duty are fixed, each day’s work shall stand alone in computing overtime, and overtime rates shall apply to all time worked in excess of or outside of the fixed hours.
8.3 Where daily ordinary hours of duty are flexible, the total hours worked in a work cycle as defined in clause 6 shall be computed and overtime rates shall apply to all time worked in excess of the ordinary hours of duty prescribed for the work cycle.
8.4 Any period of overtime which is continuous with ordinary duty and which extends beyond midnight shall be deemed to have been performed on the day the overtime commenced.
8.5 Where overtime is not continuous with ordinary duty and involves duty before and after midnight, the overtime shall be deemed to have been worked on the day for which the higher rate is payable.
8.6 Overtime shall be calculated to the nearest quarter of an hour of the total amount of overtime worked in a work cycle.
8.7 An employee is receipt of a salary in excess of the prescribed for the top sub-division of Administrative Officer Grade 8 shall not be eligible to receive payment for overtime but shall be allowed time off equivalent to the period of overtime worked.
8.8 An employee’s salary for the purposes of computation of overtime shall not include shift work allowances or the casual loading prescribed by Clause 4.4.3 but shall include higher duties allowance and any other allowance in the nature of salary.
8.9 Payment of overtime calculated for any period in accordance with the provisions of this clause shall not be subject to any limitation in amount within a wok cycle as defined in clause 5, but the rate payable shall not exceed the overtime rate which would be payable to the top sub-division of Administrative Officer Grade 6.