Both sides exaggerate the significance of wage bargaining changes

The idea that modest changes to the Albanese will take us back to anything from the 1970s is ludicrous.


In those days, when inflation was much higher than it is now, our long-standing system of forced arbitration had the perverse effect of encouraging many rather short-lived strikes. Veteran IR hands know these days that if a strike lasts more than a day or two, it’s a sign of union failure. Then, no matter how many small raises workers end up getting, it will take years to make up for the many days they lost.

Ask yourself: How could a widespread strike lead directly to widespread unemployment? they do not. They caused some workers to lose their jobs, simply because most of the people who weren’t lost their jobs got wage increases that were so large that employers really couldn’t afford them. It’s not a sound argument, it’s an attempt to scare the unthinking.

What employers really fear is the transition from bargaining at the level of individual firms or businesses to bargaining at the industry-wide level, which is Will Make it easier for unions to achieve wage increases in businesses with few union members.

While the Fair Work Act still prohibits industry-wide negotiations, it’s almost one thing for employers’ groups to choose to pretend the government is prudently extending access to multi-enterprise negotiations.


nonsense.As Professor Andrew Stewart of the University of Adelaide puts it explain, the new provision for “single (or common) interest” multi-employer negotiations is limited and protected. Unions will not be able to win over small businesses employing fewer than 20 workers. Larger employers can be included without their consent only if the majority of workers want to bargain.

Access to this form of negotiation must be approved by the Fair Work Commission, which will only allow employers to participate if they are sufficiently “comparable” to other employers. Employers with an existing single-enterprise agreement will not be able to switch to a multi-employer agreement.

But those employers involved in such negotiations will be required to negotiate in “good faith” – genuinely committed to a deal, and unions will be allowed to strike – provided this is approved by a secret ballot of staff.

A notable change is that when negotiations for single or multiple businesses become intractable, the Commission will resolve disputes through arbitration.

Another new provision to “support negotiations” in multi-employer agreements aims to help low-wage workers in female-dominated industries such as childcare and aged care.this Yes Some notable raises are likely to result. Why? Because the “support” will come from a third party that ultimately bears the cost of the raise – the federal government.

In addition, the low number of union members in most of the companies involved means that there will be no strikes and large wage increases.

Ross Gittings sydney morning herald Economics editor.

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