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Rethink bargaining for wage development: unions

Australian workers should have access to collective bargaining power which would help move wages, the peak body for unions says.

The enterprise bargaining system has been in place for more than 30 years and is due for an overhaul as it does not work for many newer industries, the Australian Council of Trade Unions said.

The system has become too complicated and inaccessible, particularly for workers in the care sector, ACTU secretary Sally McManus told AAP.

“As it stands, bargaining is not accessible to big sections of the workforce and our whole economy has changed enormously since the system was put in place,” she said.

“We’ve got no confidence wage growth will return unless we change the bargaining system.”

The ACTU is proposing fair work laws change to include more options for collective bargaining, including multi-employer or sector bargaining, which would allow multiple workplaces to make an agreement together.

People working in care sectors, who are predominantly female, would benefit from collective bargaining arrangements, Ms McManus said.

“For a childcare worker at a small centre, the idea that you can bargain with your employer is fanciful,” she said.

“Allowing childcare workers from different centres to band together and ask for better pay and fair work conditions would help shift wages.”

Workers in the aged care, disability and community services sectors would also benefit from collective bargaining, Ms McManus said.

The union group will bring its proposal to the upcoming jobs and skills summit in Canberra next week.

The summit – a Labor election promise – is aiming to address Australia’s economic challenges and will bring together about 100 representatives from the business, union and community sectors.

“It has been the task of every generation to respond to their particular challenges and take action to address them so that the living standards of Australians rise,” Ms McManus said.

“Without modernising our wage bargaining system, real wages will not grow.”

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