Paul Burns




Paul has over 25 years' experience assisting many leading Australian corporates. His national practice involves clients from industries including mining, energy, retail, manufacturing, finance, communications, hospitality, emergency services and construction.

Paul also understands the complexities of public sector employment arrangements, and has built strong relationships with both Federal and State agencies.

Paul works with clients on workplace reform strategies, both inside and outside the bargaining cycle. He has an in-depth knowledge of the complexities and challenges of the regulatory regime covering businesses in Australia. Paul is known for his expertise in managing complex corporate restructures and employment related litigation, and for providing advice on innovative (but compliant) contracting models to meet clients’ operational and business needs.

Key deals


Partnered with the corporate legal team on the highly publicised project to modernise Coles’ supply chain network through the investment in developing and constructing two automated ambient distribution centres. The engagement covered matters relevant to the contractual model for the construction phase and advice on the legal and industrial implications of the project for the existing sites and team members affected by the move to automation.


At a previous firm, Paul was the lead strategic adviser to the executive leadership team on employment matters relevant to Dulux's new paint manufacturing facility in Merrifield, Victoria which commenced operation in October 2017. This included framing the employment model for the new site, and advising on associated strategic matters relating to the construction and commissioning phases, recruitment processes, internal systems and processes to support the model, contractor engagement and operational and legal contingency plans.

Stellar Asia Pacific

At a previous firm, Paul was lead strategic industrial adviser since shortly after their start up in 1998, which has involved many high profile cases related to maintaining or protecting their preferred employment model based on individual engagement and the concept of 'open book management', including the transmission of a business test case in the Federal Court, the making of the first enterprise award in their industry in the then Australian Industrial Relations Commission and their transition (as the underpinning legislative landscape changed) from AWAs to non-union collective agreements and ultimately the making of a national enterprise agreement under the Fair Work Act 2009.


At a previous firm, Paul was the lead employment law adviser on the demerger of the Dulux business from the Orica Group. Due to the group employment arrangements, the demerger involved the transfer of employees in the Dulux business to the new operating entity. This gave rise to a number of complexities due to the number of employees involved, the nature of their employment arrangements, ongoing bargaining at impacted sites and the need to effectively manage a variety of stakeholders. The transaction was completed successfully without disputation from transferring employees or their representatives, and Dulux was provided with a secure employment platform from which to operate the demerged business.

Emergency Services in Victoria

Paul has a long standing relationship with Victoria Police and the Metropolitan Fire and Emergency Services Board, and in more recent times has worked closely with Ambulance Victoria. This has resulted in a variety of strategic engagements including enterprise bargaining projects, advising on and conducting investigations into employee discipline matters, whistleblowing and discrimination complaints, managing union and individual disputes under relevant industrial instruments, providing guidance on the consideration of requests for flexible working arrangements, and acting in resulting litigation in either the Fair Work Commission or the courts.

Infrastructure projects

At a previous firm, Paul supported a broader commercial legal team in the capacity of lead employment adviser for the State of Victoria in managing industrial matters associated with two of the most significant rail development projects in Victoria in recent times, being the Regional Rail Link Project and the current Metro Tunnel Project. This included reviewing and drafting contractual terms to align with the relevant risk allocation model (which varied across work packages), contractor assessment, selection and management, Building Code compliance issues, responding to union demands which impacted on costs and delivery timeframes, and (where appropriate) proactively managing industrial disputes by advising on legal response options for the State, alliance partners or the relevant contracting party. The projects required an intricate understanding of the workings of government and the framework and principles which governed the approach to managing industrial and employment relations matters impacting or likely to impact each scope of work.