The Western Australian Industrial Relations Commission is an independent quasi-judicial tribunal established under the Industrial Relations Act 1979 (the Act) to deal with industrial matters in the State of Western Australia by conciliation or, if necessary, arbitration. The main objectives of the Commission are to prevent and settle industrial disputes.
The Department of the Registrar is a Government Department established to support the Commission in its objectives and the Registrar in his / her duties under the
Industrial Relations Act 1979.
The Western Australian Industrial Relations System
The Western Australian Industrial Relations Commission and Related Courts and Jurisdictions
- Western Australian Industrial Appeal Court
- Full Bench
- Commission in Court Session
- Commissioners Sitting Alone
- Public Sector
- The Registrar
The Western Australian Industrial Appeal Court
The Western Australian Industrial Appeal Court (IAC) is made up of a Presiding Judge and two other Judges of the Supreme Court appointed by the Chief Justice.
The IAC hears appeals against decisions of the President, Full Bench and the Commission in Court Session, but only on the grounds that the decision is in excess of jurisdiction, that the decision is erroneous in law or on the ground that the appellant has been denied the right to be heard.
Applications for a stay of operation of decisions of the Commission pending appeal to the IAC are heard by a single judge.
The Full Bench
The Full Bench is constituted by the President of the Western Australian Industrial Relations Commission and at least two other Commissioners.
The Full Bench hears and determines appeals against the decisions of Commissioners, and Industrial Magistrates. The Full Bench also deals with applications for registration of organisations under the Act, the amendment of organisation rules where those amendments affect the eligibility for membership and other matters to do with organisations, answers questions of law referred to it by the Commission and reviews decisions of the Coal Industry Tribunal.
The decision of the Full Bench can be by majority of the members.
Appeals against decisions of the Full Bench are heard by the Western Australian Industrial Appeal Court.
The Commission in Court Session
The Commission in Court Session is constituted by at least three Commissioners.
The Commission in Court Session deals mainly with matters of particular importance, notably the State Wage Case which sets the WA minimum wage, applications for General Orders, and any matter referred by a Commissioner that the Chief Commissioner agrees is suitably important.
The Commission in Court Session also hears appeals against determinations of Boards of Reference.
The President of the Western Australian Industrial Relations Commission
The President presides over the Full Bench and also sits alone to determine matters within the President's jurisdiction.
When the President sits alone he / she constitutes the Commission.
The President, sitting alone, hears applications for the stay of operation of decisions of the Commission and Industrial Magistrate pending the hearing of an appeal by the Full Bench.
The President hears applications by the Registrar and members and affected non-members of organisations for orders regarding the compliance with and validity and observance of organisations rules, and matters relating to elections in those organisations.
Commissioners Sitting Alone
The Chief Commissioner, the Senior Commissioner and each of the Commissioners all constitute the Commission when sitting alone. The kinds of applications dealt with by Commissioner sitting alone, include the following types:
- Applications for awards and to vary awards
- Applications to register Industrial Agreements
- Applications for Compulsory Conferences to settle disputes
- Applications by individuals claiming Unfair Dismissal or Denied Contractual Entitlements
- Applications for orders regarding conditions of employment, procedural matters and other issues
The Commission will try to conciliate all matters before it by way of conference and discussion to assist the parties to reach agreement. The Commission does not proceed to arbitrate a matter unless it is satisfied that there is no prospect of conciliation succeeding.
Industrial matters concerning Government Officers are dealt with either by the Public Service Arbitrator or the Public Service Appeal Board.
The Public Service Arbitrator is a Commissioner who has been appointed by the Chief Commissioner. The Public Service Arbitrator has exclusive jurisdiction to enquire into and deal with any industrial matter relating to a government officer, a group of government officers or government officers generally (see s 80E of the Act here.). A Public Service Arbitrator deals with public sector industrial matters generally by conciliation and arbitration. A Public Service Arbitrator also hears reclassification appeals.
The Public Service Appeal Board (see s 80H of the Act) is chaired by either the President of the Commission or by a Public Service Arbitrator sitting with an employer’s representative nominated by the employing authority and an employee’s representative nominated by the relevant public sector union. The Public Service Appeal Board deals with certain appeals against decisions of an employing authority to dismiss or discipline a government officer. They are listed in s 80I of the Act. The Public Service Appeal Board does not conciliate an appeal, it only hears and determines an appeal. If both appellant and the employing authority wish to try to resolve the appeal before it is heard, they can make an application for mediation (see Mediation website here.). There is no appeal against a decision of a Public Service Appeal Board.
Regulation 120(1) of the Industrial Relations Commission Regulations 2005 provides for a member of a constituent authority (such as a PSAB) to be paid such remuneration as the Chief Commissioner from time to time determines.
The current determination is:
(a) $230 for attendance up to four hours; and
(b) $350 for attendance exceeding four hours.
Additionally, a member may be reimbursed travel expenses where the return journey to attend business exceeds 50kms.
The Registrar is responsible for the recording of the registration of organisations under the Industrial Relations Act 1979. The Registrar is also responsible for the registration and processing of all applications and documents to be put before the the Commission.
Allocation of Matters
The Chief Commissioner allocates to a Commissioner each application made to the Commission. The practice of the Chief Commissioner is usually to allocate applications from the main industry sectors to particular Commissioners for a period of time after which they may then be allocated applications from other industry sectors. This practice enables employers, their organisations and unions to know in advance to whom a matter is likely to be allocated; this is often of assistance if the matter is urgent and prior notification to the Commission of the urgent matter is appropriate. The practice assists in dealing with matters promptly also enables Commissioners to add to their knowledge of the State’s industries and industrial relations.
As a result, the WAIRC Commissioners are experienced in dealing with industrial matters in almost every industry sector in the State.
The current list of the main industries from which applications may be made to the Commission and the Commissioners to whom those applications will usually be allocated is set out for information. Not every industry is mentioned. Although the Commission accepts applications from any industry sector, the jurisdiction of the Commission to deal with some applications may be overridden by the Commonwealth
Fair Work Act 2009 where the employer is a constitutional corporation.
Applications made to the Public Service Arbitrator, and applications by individual employees claiming unfair dismissal or that they have not been given a benefit under their contract of employment, may not necessarily be allocated only by reference to the “industry” in which the work was performed.
Where the Commission is asked to assist parties by informal mediation, conciliation or private arbitration, the parties may ask the Chief Commissioner for the request to be passed to a particular Commissioner. The Chief Commissioner will consider such requests along with the Commissioner’s availability, workload and other relevant factors.