What is a zombie agreement?
When we talk about workers being on “zombie agreements”, we’re talking about workplace agreements that were implemented during the Howard government’s controversial WorkChoices era, which stripped employees of enforceable workplace rights and resulted in many workers being paid wages below Award rates.
WorkChoices was repealed in its entirety by the Rudd government and replaced by the Fair Work Act 2009, which effectively restored a number of the conditions that employees lost under WorkChoices.
On paper then, it seems outrageous that WorkChoice-era workplace agreements made between March 2006 and April 2007 are still in effect. It’s even worse when you consider that these agreements had a nominal five year expiry date: a WorkChoice-era agreement made in 2007, for instance, nominally expired in 2012.
Unfortunately, under the Fair Work Act, workplace agreements continue to operate after the nominal expiry date passes, until they’re either replaced or terminated by application to the Fair Work Commission (FWC).
While any of the parties to the agreement can apply to the FWC for a termination of the agreement, that requires either an employer who wants to terminate an agreement which, most likely, saves them money in unpaid penalty rates, or employees who are aware that they’re on a zombie agreement and that they can do something about it.