Although the decision on the redundancy application was a benefit to Aurizon, there were no alternative agreements for companies yet. One of the factors that influenced Full Bench`s finding in this regard was the particular situation in which the agreements were concluded (to the extent that the Queensland government required Aurizon to grant guarantees to workers and formalize these guarantees in its enterprise agreements as part of this privatization process). Section 226 of the Act stipulates that the Commission must terminate an enterprise contract if Aurizon has achieved its commercial objective with the agreement of the Traincrew contract – three modern and flexible enterprise agreements for approximately 5,000 of its employees in Queensland. The new Enterprise Agreement (EA) ended a dispute that, late last year and earlier this year, led to sporadic strikes at the Central Queensland Coal Network. The conflict began before Christmas, the last trade union actions resulted in mid-March. Aurizon reached an agreement in principle with the unions on EA operating flight attendants On the same day, Commissioner Spencer approved the railway crew agreement and the “Traincrew Agreement”, the last of three enterprise agreements concluded by Aurizon workers and approved by the Commission. The unions also argued that the denunciation of enterprise agreements would run counter to the objective of a fair framework for collective bargaining in good faith, would generally compromise negotiations and give Aurizon a huge advantage in their negotiations on alternative operating agreements. In addition, Full Bench felt that the terms of an enterprise agreement should not be expected to remain permanently unchanged (particularly after an enterprise agreement has exceeded its nominal expiry date). The unions also requested a review of the Commission`s decision on the grounds that, in the public interest opinion within the meaning of S 226 bis of the Act, the Commission had failed to take into account a “substantial relevant consideration” by failing to take into account the effects of the termination of enterprise agreements on an access project submitted by Aurizon under state competition law. Perhaps the best place to conclude is simply to quote a central paragraph of the Full Bench decision – a paragraph that reflects the position that Aurizon had always defended during his efforts to reach an agreement with the unions: after the dismissal request, Aurizon continued to negotiate with the unions to reach agreement on replacement agreements for companies. This decision is also important for employers in general who, despite having lengthy negotiations on enterprise agreements, have previously ruled out the potential for a successful application to terminate an expired enterprise contract in light of the old line of competence. The Union argued that the “legacy provisions” contained in the expired enterprise agreements are explicable and are reasonable terms of employment, given the nature of Aurizon`s activities, the sites where work is carried out and the conditions under which the work of Aurizon workers is carried out.
The decisions also clearly and unambiguously set out the appropriate principles that must apply when considering an application to terminate an expired enterprise contract.