Employees could snag a double-digit pay-rise by convincing their boss to pass on wage increases occurring in similar workplaces, a cabinet minister says.
The Albanese Government has legislation before Parliament which contains sweeping changes to workplace laws – including the reintroduction of ‘multi-employer bargaining’.
Labor wants to introduce a system where pay rises in one workplace are copied by a group of employers.
This would revive an industrial relations system from four decades ago that led to huge pay increases.
This saw a Labor government in 1993 bring in an enterprise bargaining system which stopped pay rises in one workplace from automatically being copied.
Employment and Workplace Relations Minister Tony Burke this week hailed Victorian childcare workers who scored big pay increases by lobbying several employers, leading to big pay increases that outpaced already high levels of inflation.
‘So if you look at the Victorian child care centres that engaged in multi-employer bargaining together and it was complex because the system wasn’t really set up for it, but they ended up with wage increases between 12 to 16 per cent for those workers,’ he told the ABC’s 7.30 program on Wednesday.
Employer groups are worried strikes will become more widespread under Labor’s plans to revive an industrial relations system that existed until 1983.
Crossbench independent senator David Pocock, a former rugby union player, is considering a Labor proposal to allow employers to be spared from the effect of new laws for six to 12 months, from the time a single-employer enterprise agreement ends.
But Senator Pocock wants more time to debate the bill.
Australians are more likely to get a double-digit pay rise if their colleagues convince their boss to pass on wage increases occurring in similar workplaces (pictured are childcare workers with the United Workers Union campaigning in Melbourne with state Animal Justice Party MP Andy Meddick)
‘My concern has – and continues to be – the short timeframe we have to consider and consult on the bill and the big changes it proposes,’ he told Daily Mail Australia on Friday.
‘I accept this is urgent but we also need to get this right.
‘The bill is huge and includes some really welcome measures, especially around gender equity and to get wages moving to help address the crippling cost of living crisis Australians are facing.’
Mr Burke argued existing industrial relations laws made it hard for multi-employer bargaining to occur, referencing those Victorian childcare workers.
‘Now, there’s another example in Victoria where a whole lot of childcare centres, about 70 of them, wanted to bargain together,’ he told 7.30 in August.
‘They all employed about 20 to 30 workers, predominantly female, and to be able to do it, they then had to go through the rigmarole at the end of individually registering each agreement.’
The federal Labor government last month put forward a bill in Parliament that would make it easier for workplaces to engage in multi-employer bargaining.
Employer groups fear 1970s-style strikes will become more common should the Fair Work Legislation Amendment (Secure Jobs, Better Pay) Bill 2022 become law.
Business Council of Australia chief executive Jennifer Westacott told a Senate hearing on Friday Labor’s proposed laws would threaten small business.
‘We still believe these changes won’t produce higher wages, and in fact could lead to a series of unintended consequences for workers and business, particularly small business,’ she said.
ACTU secretary Sally McManus has been critical of the enterprise bargaining system that debuted in 1993 when Paul Keating was Labor prime minister because it stopped wage rises in one workplace automatically flowing through to others.
Bob Hawke’s Labor government had negotiated a series of Accords with trade unions to keep a lid on double-digit wages, soon after coming to power in 1983.
Employment and Workplace Relations Minister Tony Burke has been hailing the case of Victorian childcare workers who scored big pay increases by engaging in multi-employer bargaining, leading to big pay increases outpacing high levels of inflation
This replaced the old system of industry-wide bargaining that had caused a wage-price spiral.
During the early 1980s, widespread strikes had led to a 14 per cent wages surge as inflation climbed by 11 per cent.
The Amalgamated Metal Workers Union, with strike action, had managed to secure a $39 a week pay increase, which flowed through to the rest of the economy during an era when the average, full-time male worker earned less than $300 a week.
But in 2022, Australian workers are continuing to suffer from weak wages growth with pay levels rising by just 2.6 per cent in the year to June as inflation soared by 6.1 per cent.
Price pressures have since worsened, with headline inflation surging by 7.3 per cent in the year to September – the steepest increase since 1990.
Treasury is expecting wages growth to hit an 11-year high of 3.75 per cent in 2023 but this level of pay rises was not expected to outpace inflation until 2024.
Crossbench independent senator David Pocock is considering a Labor proposal to allow employers to be spared from the effect of new laws for six to 12 months, but wants more time to debate the bill
Read more at DailyMail.co.uk