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ALP Conference Industry-wide Bargaining Proposals Alarming

"Industry is alarmed that Labor has not ruled out industry bargaining across all industries, nor industry-wide strike action in pursuit of industry agreements," Ai Group Chief Executive, Innes Willox said today.

"All Australian businesses would be at risk of disproportionate union claims should the bargaining policies announced today be implemented. They would threaten the existence of businesses and the livelihoods of their employees. Labor needs to urgently clarify if the proposals are just for the low-paid stream or the economy as a whole because as things stand they have left the door open to rampant industrial disputation across the entire Australian economy.

"Industry bargaining makes no sense in the Australian context because Australia, unlike other countries, has a system of industry awards to set minimum wage rates and conditions at the industry level. Australia's system of industry awards and enterprise bargaining has served Australia very well over the past 25 years.

"The latest statistics on wage outcomes under enterprise agreements shows that average wage outcomes in the construction industry are around 6% per annum and that such drastic action as industry wide bargaining is unnecessary. Clearly, the CFMMEU is having no difficulty in achieving very generous wage increases through enterprise bargaining. Any proposal that would give the CFMMEU even more bargaining power, and more ability to inflict harm on the Australian community, would deserve the strongest condemnation.

"Australia's lengthy period of economic growth cannot be taken for granted. Australia made it through the GFC much better than most other countries because we had a flexible labour market. There is a major risk that this flexibility will be lost if the right policy settings are not retained. Workers and businesses would suffer when economic conditions deteriorate, as they are bound to at some stage.

"If changes were considered necessary, the enterprise bargaining system could be readily refreshed with a few sensible legislative changes. Introducing the damaging sledgehammer of industry-wide bargaining would only benefit unions – not workers, businesses or the broader community," Mr Willox said.  

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