The government has left the door open to a call for multi-employer pay deals despite a major pushback from big business.
Treasurer Jim Chalmers said the idea would be “teased out” at the upcoming jobs and skills summit as unions, business and government seek solutions to what they say is a “broken” system.
“I think there’s broad agreement really across all of the various stakeholders that enterprise bargaining isn’t working,” Dr Chalmers told Sky News.
“I think enterprise bargaining is broken. If there are ways to fix it, so we get that sustainable wages growth, we should be looking at it.
“And obviously, in this particular part of the summit … (Employment Minister Tony Burke’s) task will be to see where there is some common ground perhaps in some industries, around multi-employer bargaining and to see if we can move forward together on this front.”
Multi-employer bargaining would allow unions to strike deals to cover more than one employer in an industry rather than negotiating separate enterprise agreements.
Business Council of Australia chief Jennifer Westacott reiterated her concern over the proposal on Sunday, questioning if it could cause more problems than it solved.
“My concern is that at an industry level, we try to fix one problem and end up with a lot more,” she told the ABC.
She raised anxieties around industry-wide strike action and the impact of multi-employer deals on small businesses as reasons to pause.
The government will later this week hold its long awaited jobs and skills summit with unions, employers and other stakeholders coming together to discuss solutions to workplaces shortages and stagnant wages.
Dr Chalmers said he was not looking for “unanimity” but stressed there was common ground to be found.
Both ACTU secretary Sally McManus and Ms Westacott said they wanted Australians to be paid more, a lift in the migration cap, and fixing the skills sector.
However, the Treasurer said any lift to the migration cap could not come at the expense of upskilling Australians.
“We can’t fall in the trap of saying migration is a substitute for training, we need to move on both fronts in sensible ways,” Dr Chalmers said.