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From time-to-time employers, employees, union organisations, and other types of parties may disagree on how awards, agreements or other general employment rights are to be interpreted and applied in the workplace. Depending on the circumstances, parties can apply to the Commission in the form of industrial disputes, general protection applications, or collective bargaining applications.
Industrial matters before the Industrial Court of Queensland or the Queensland Industrial Relations Commission are governed by the Industrial Relations Act 2016 (the Act).
For a non-exhaustive list of industrial matters, please see Schedule 1 to the Industrial Relations Act 2016.
An industrial dispute is a disagreement between an employer and:
- an employee
- a group of employees
- an industrial organisation (union).
An industrial dispute is generally about an industrial matter. For example, an employer may disagree with an employee about the interpretation of an award or an agreement.
One, or more, of the parties to the dispute may notify the Queensland Industrial Relations Commission of the dispute. The Commission will then hold a conciliation conference with the parties in an attempt to resolve the issue. If the dispute cannot be resolved then the dispute can be referred for arbitration, after which a member of the Commission will make a decision that will bind all parties to the dispute.
For further information about what is an industrial matter, refer to section 9 of the Industrial Relations Act 2016.
Chapter 8 of the Industrial Relations Act 2016 includes a number of general protections.
The general protections are intended to:
- protect workplace rights
- protect freedom of association
- provide protection from workplace discrimination, and
- provide effective relief for persons who have been discriminated against, victimised or otherwise adversely affected as a result of unfair treatment
An employer must not take any "adverse action" against an employee, because that employee has a workplace right, has exercised a workplace right or proposes to exercise that workplace right.
Adverse actions that can be taken against an employee or prospective employee might include:
- dismissing the employee
- discriminating between employees
- altering the position of the employee to their disadvantage
- refuses to employ the prospective employee
- offering the prospective employee different (and unfair) terms and conditions, compared to others
Applications relating to the general protections prescribed under the Industrial Relations Act 2016 are governed by Practice Note 1 of 2017.
In the process of collective bargaining, industrial organisations with their members (employees), or employers, may decide to take protected industrial action as a way of progressing negotiations.
Industrial action is defined in the Industrial Relations Act 2016 as a "lockout or strike".
A strike is when two or more employees employed or formally employed by an employer conduct in a certain way as part of the workplace bargaining process.
A lockout is the action taken by an employer to close a workplace or suspend or discontinue the employer's business, or any branch of it.
For further information about what is a lockout or strike, refer to schedule 5 of the Industrial Relations Act 2016.
Protected industrial action is industrial action taken by employees who have been approved by the Industrial Registrar to engage in the action. Before the action is taken, notice must be given in accordance with the relevant section of the Industrial Relations Act 2016.
The effect of being "protected" is that there are no legal proceedings which lie under any law for action taken for the protected industrial action except for action resulting in:
- Personal injury
- Wilfull or reckless destruction of, or damage to, property
- The unlawful taking, keeping or use of property.
Defamation proceedings may also be brought for anything that happens during the protected industrial action.
If the protected industrial action is the lockout of an employee by the employer then it is lawful for the employer to refuse to pay the employee for the period of the lockout.
In order for industrial action to be protected industrial action for a proposed bargaining instrument it must first meet the requirements as set out in section 233 of the Industrial Relations Act 2016.
For employees, prior to making such an application, the relevant employee organisation will seek its member’s democratic views about the type of proposed industrial action to be taken. If the majority of members agree to take protected industrial action then the employee organisation will make application to the Registrar to have the proposed industrial action approved under section 235 of the Industrial Relations Act 2016.
For information about the process in taking protected industrial action please see:
Last updated 06 December 2018