The NSW parliament has passed laws aimed at ushering in “meaningful improvements” to workers' wages and conditions.

NSW Treasurer Daniel Mookhey says the new bill removes an existing wages cap, replacing what he deemed a “blunt, unsophisticated instrument” with a more genuine and meaningful approach to industrial relations.

The Industrial Relations Amendment Bill 2023, passed in the last sitting week, heralds the re-establishment of the previously dismantled NSW Industrial Court. 

Expert judges will be appointed to handle workplace health and safety matters and underpayments. 

The Industrial Relations Commission will see structural changes, with the chief commissioner's office abolished to make way for the offices of president, vice-president, and deputy president as judicial members.

Industrial Relations Minister Sophie Cotsis stated that the reforms aim to attract more frontline workers and address attrition rates exacerbated by the former government's wages cap. 

Cotsis commended essential workers who campaigned to abolish the wages cap, hailing the changes as their victory.

Amid the process, the NSW Supreme Court issued an extraordinary statement in response to criticism from Minister Cotsis, defending itself against being labelled “legalistic, slow, and costly”. 

Chief Justice Andrew Bell clarified that the minister's comments were inaccurate and required correction for the public record. 

Opposition IR spokesman Damien Tudehope deemed it an unprecedented intervention, emphasising the minister's overreach in criticising the Supreme Court to promote the Industrial Court.

Senior barrister Arthur Moses SC condemned the minister's attempt to tarnish the Supreme Court's reputation. The court rebutted Cotsis's claim that it was impractical for dealing with industrial issues, citing its judges' expertise in industrial law.

Premier Chris Minns has supported Minister Cotsis, defending the rationale behind the Industrial Court's restoration. 

The court, abolished by the previous Coalition government in 2016, is set to become a “one-stop shop for industrial justice”, handling cases from the District Court. 

Judges on the Industrial Court will receive the same salary as Supreme Court judges, along with generous judicial pensions.