Australia: Queensland local government industry award split into three modern awards - what it means

Last Updated: 5 July 2017
Article by Cameron Dean and Liam Fraser

Most Read Contributor in Australia, June 2017


  • Local government officers and managers, IR/HR practitioners and professionals.


  • The Queensland Local Government Industry Award – State 2017 is revoked and has been replaced by three new Modern Awards that took effect on 1 July 2017.


  • Check your current industrial arrangements to ensure compliance with the new awards and ensure the correct new award is applied for future bargaining.

The Queensland Industrial Relations Commission (QIRC) has potentially drawn to a close a difficult period in industrial relations regulation for Queensland local governments by revoking the Queensland Local Government Industry Award-State 2017 (2017 Award) and replacing it with three new modern awards covering distinct streams of work.


The making of the new awards follows three and a half years of uncertainty for local government about its industrial relations framework.

In January 2014, the then Liberal National Party Government issued an award modernisation request which required certain content to be removed from modern awards. In September 2014, the QIRC issued the Queensland Local Government Industry Award-State 2014 which removed some of the previously included content such as union encouragement, union delegate leave, right of entry for union officials, dispute and grievance resolution as well as termination, change and redundancy clauses.

In July 2015, the then newly elected Labor Government issued a modernisation request which required modern awards that had already been made to be reviewed, and for some entitlements, terms and conditions to be restored. In November 2015, the QIRC issued a new local government award which did not restore some terms and conditions as required by the State Government's request.

In March 2016, a collection of unions successfully appealed the 2015 modern award on the basis that it did not comply with the State Government's request that terms of conditions of employment were to be restored. In June 2016, the Labor Government issued a further award modernisation request, which again required the restoration of entitlements and terms and conditions of employment.

In August 2016, the Local Government Association of Queensland unsuccessfully applied to the Supreme Court for judicial review of the award modernisation request on the basis that the Government's 'request' went to the nature of content for the modern award. The Court was unpersuaded by the argument and dismissed the application.

Finally, in February 2017 the QIRC made the 2017 Award, however amendments in the Industrial Relations Act 2016 (Qld) (IR Act) meant that this award would be short-lived.

The new IR Act commenced on 1 March 2017 and required the Registrar of the QIRC to revoke and replace the 2017 Award with three new awards split into streams 'as soon as practicable after commencement.'

New Awards

On 30 June 2017, the Registrar of the QIRC made an order revoking the 2017 Award and replaced it with three modern awards that took effect on 1 July 2017. Those three awards are:

  • Queensland Local Government Industry (Stream A) Award – State 2017
  • Queensland Local Government Industry (Stream B) Award – State 2017, and
  • Queensland Local Government Industry (Stream C) Award – State 2017.

The Stream A Award covers employees in administrative, clerical, technical, professional, community service, supervisory and managerial services, delivery of children's services and early childhood education (including teachers), and clerical employees in owned or controlled corporations of local governments.

The Stream B Award covers employees in aged care services (other than nurses), community policing services, health, sports and fitness services, hospitality services, operational services, theatrical services, and tour guide services.

The Stream C Award covers employees in building trade services, engineering and electrical/electronic services, and nursing services.

The terms and conditions applicable in the three streams are derived from the 2017 Award. In addition to the three new awards, new pay rates for employees commenced on 1 July 2017.

What does it all mean

Local governments need to refer to the new awards and consider which will be applicable for their employees, depending on the stream of work being performed.

Local governments that have current certified agreements in place need to be aware of the relationship between modern awards and certified agreements as set out in the IR Act. To the extent of any inconsistency, a certified agreement will prevail over a modern award, however local governments should be aware of the new provisions of modern awards which may be different from the previous pre-modern awards that their certified agreements were made under.

For local governments that are about to bargain with their employees for new certified agreements, it will be necessary to identify the relevant streams of work that employees perform and apply the correct award.

If you require assistance in understanding the new modern awards for local government, it is important to seek advice early to ensure employee arrangements comply with the new modern awards. Our employment relations team can provide advice to assist on understanding these matters, including about compliance and strategies for bargaining.

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