In yesterday’s blog, we commented on the state of play in enterprise bargaining in Australia.

So what’s the outlook for enterprise bargaining in Australia? Here’s the top 7:

  1. Collective bargaining remains unlikely to be the answer for productivity gains – as has been the case for some time. Nor will it deliver the across-the-board wages growth sought. Of course, there will be exceptions to the rule. But my observation here is one generally about the ability of the system to generate productivity gains. Of course, there are some sectors where deriving and measuring such gains is very difficult, if not illusory, in any event.
  2. Complexity is here to stay. The rules surrounding the making of agreements, laudable in their aim in providing protections for employees, make the process and approval regime demanding on employers, and the Fair Work Commission.
  3. The key determinant of bargaining outcomes will be power. The pendulum of “power” at the negotiating table will, to some extent, move with the market – but not completely. Over the last 10-20 years, claims have moderated as economic conditions deteriorated. We have seen, for instance, more moderate claims in Western Australia in construction as the resources tap tightened.
  4. Large and high-profile employers will remain in union sights. They are vulnerable to aggressive campaigns and effectively set the wages for others.
  5. Pattern-style bargaining became more prevalent by stealth. The TWU made this prophecy real just last week.
  6. Employers who influence a worker supply-chain such as major retail will become an increasing target of “activism”. Will we see GetUp involved in this space?
  7. Collective bargaining will continue to decline as workplaces become more fragmented and the incentive to bargain decreases. Power will dictate the incidence of enterprise bargaining.

This all assumes no, or only limited change, to the Fair Work Act.


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