Three certified agreements case

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Three certified agreements case
Coat of Arms of Australia.svg
Court Australian Industrial Relations Commission
Full case nameRe: Rural City of Murray Bridge Nursing Employees, ANF (Aged Care) – Enterprise Agreement 2004 (18 March 2005 PR956575).
Decided21 March 2005
Case history
Prior action(s)'
Subsequent action(s)none
Case opinions
The case determined what did and did not pertain. It concluded:
  • Trade union right of entry "pertains to the relationship between employer and employee".
  • Salary sacrifice "pertains to the relationship between employer and employee".
  • Setting conditions for employees of labour hire "pertains to the relationship between employer and employee".
  • Recognition of delegates "pertains to the relationship between employer and employee".
  • Payroll deductions for union dues "do not pertain to the relationship between employer and employee".
  • Trade union training leave "pertains to the relationship between employer and employee".
Court membership
Judge(s) sittingGuidice, Lawler, Ross

The three certified agreements case was a decision of the Australian Industrial Relations Commission that resolved the confusion created by the High Court's decision of Electrolux v AWU .

The Australian Industrial Relations Commission (AIRC), known from 1956 to 1973 as the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission and from 1973 to 1988 as the Australian Conciliation and Arbitration Commission, was a tribunal with powers under the Workplace Relations Act 1996 that existed from 1956 until 2010. It was the central institution of Australian labour law. The AIRC replaced a previous system of industrial courts, which broadly speaking, was engaged in the same functions, but with superior independence and powers.

High Court of Australia Highest court in Australia

The High Court of Australia is the highest court in the Australian court hierarchy and the final court of appeal in Australia. It has both original and appellate jurisdiction, the power of judicial review over laws passed by the Parliament of Australia and the parliaments of the states and territories, and the ability to interpret the Constitution of Australia and thereby shape the development of federalism in Australia.



The three certified agreements case, or In Re Schefenacker, the Australian Nursing Federation and the Rural City of Murray Bridge, was a case that combined appeals from decisions of a single commissioner not to certify enterprise agreements, as it was believed that the agreements contained clauses that did not pertain to the relationship between employer and employee:


The decision was necessary to clarify the High Court of Australia's decision Electrolux v AWU, which caused much uncertainty existed on could be placed into enterprise bargaining agreements.

Enterprise bargaining is wage and working conditions being negotiated at the level of the individual organisations, as distinct from sectoral collective bargaining across whole industries. Once established, they are legally binding on employers and employees. An Enterprise Agreement (EA) consists of a collective industrial agreement between either an employer and a trade union acting on behalf of employees or an employer and employees acting for themselves.


The decision was handed down on 21 March 2005. The case got major attention around Australia. It was one of the longest-awaited decisions in industrial relations law, as industrial relations professionals had awaited clarification of Electrolux of the High Court of Australia for over five months.

It is commonly regarded as the final landmark decision of the Australian Industrial Relations Commission. (That is before its wage setting, award formation and agreement certification powers were removed from it by the WorkChoices reform in 2006.)


WorkChoices was the name given to changes made to the federal industrial relations laws in Australia by the Howard Government in 2005, being amendments to the Workplace Relations Act 1996 by the Workplace Relations Amendment Act 2005, that came into effect on 27 March 2006.


The case dealt with whether a large number of union-friendly provisions such as these:

The case decided that the matters (in certain forms) could be included into enterprise agreements (and awards would have been followed). It was generally accepted as a major union victory.

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