'Mining employers and employees already bargain successfully,' CEO says
The Minerals Council of Australia has expressed opposition to the proposed multi-employer bargaining by unions, suggesting that enterprise bargaining should be enhanced instead. Multi-employer bargaining seeks to allow workers and their union representatives to strike deals with multiple employers, even across sectors, in order to lift wages.
However, according to the council, the mining industry already pays the highest average wages of all the industries – sitting at $144,000 a year. The average weekly earnings of employees in the sector also grew by 99% between 2000-01 and 2020-21, despite labour productivity declining by 8% during that period.
"The sustained increase in the number of highly paid, highly skilled, and secure mining jobs over the past 20 years (from 87,800 to 277,600 direct employees) shows that enterprise bargaining is neither broken in the mining industry nor in need of radical surgery," said Tania Constable, chief executive officer of the council. "Nor can it be argued that wages growth has lagged behind productivity growth in mining."
Constable said that multi-employer bargaining could give unions too much power over industries.
"Multi-employer bargaining would shoehorn diverse employers and employees into one-size-fits-all agreements and enable unions to shut down whole industries – or large segments – with protected industrial action over matters not relevant to the performance of individual operations," Constable said. "Compelling bargaining across mining operations will not foster greater cooperation, increase productivity, boost wages, and create jobs. Mining employers and employees already bargain successfully at the enterprise level for above-award wages and conditions."
Instead of pushing for multi-employer bargaining, Constable raised the suggestion of making enterprise bargaining more attractive by "improving its capacity to support real wages growth through productivity gains."
"In turn, this will help attract international investment in mining, minerals processing, and related manufacturing, which is crucial to realising the government's ambition of a 'future made in Australia,'" she said.
Mining is Australia's largest export industry. In 2021-22, it generated a record $413 billion in exports. The sector also accounted for 30% of all company tax paid that year.