Case Studies

UMI Arts: Creating Fair Employment Agreements

UMI Arts Gallery Coordinator Teho Ropeyarn with UMI Arts Member Philomena Yeatman

UMI Arts: Creating Fair Employment Agreements

UMI Arts is the peak Indigenous arts and cultural organisation for Far North Queensland. It is a not-for-profit company based in Cairns and managed by an all-Indigenous Board of Directors. In January 2012, it approached Artists in the Black (AITB) for support with reviewing its employment agreements. 

UMI Arts’ primary concern was to ensure that the draft agreements complied with Fair Work legislation and other applicable awards. Arts Law contacted lawyer John Lunny at boutique legal practice Workplace Resolve, a human resources legal practice. John frequently assists Arts Law clients and was quick to offer his assistance pro bono.

It’s important that employers ensure that their employment contracts are kept up to date with the laws concerning employment. In July 2009, the Australian Federal government made substantial changes to the system of laws around employment when they introduced the Fair Work legislation. Further changes have been made since then with the introduction of the National Employment Standards in January 2010. For example, employers are now required to give each new employee a Fair Work Information Statement before, or as soon as possible after, they start employment. Workplace Resolve made several changes to Umi Arts’ employment agreements to ensure they were up to date.

One aspect that is often difficult in the arts sector is identifying the most appropriate award for the employee. An award is an enforceable document containing minimum terms and conditions of employment for particular categories of jobs in addition to any legislated minimum terms. In general, an award applies to employees in a particular industry or occupation and is used as the benchmark for assessing enterprise agreements before approval.  There are lots of jobs in the arts that don’t seem to fall within the obvious categories.  John Lunny concluded that the most relevant award scheme for Umi Arts’ workplace was the Amusement, Events and Recreation Award2010.

In March 2012, with John’s help, the Employment Agreements and Contractors Agreement were finalised.  Executive Officer Janet Parfenovics thanked John Lunny for his “clear and helpful advice”.

Arts Law will be adapting these agreements into a template for other Indigenous arts organizations to use. As Janet stated; “The resulting agreements will be applicable to many Indigenous Arts Workers (or non-Indigenous arts workers who work in Indigenous organisations such as Art Centres) and could be of great benefit to the Indigenous Creative Industries Sector”.

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