ACTU raises 'multi-employer bargaining' ahead of Jobs and Skills Summit

'This would improve access to bargaining for large sections of the workforce'

ACTU raises 'multi-employer bargaining' ahead of Jobs and Skills Summit

The Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) has brought forward "multi-employer or sector bargaining" as they push for a review on collective bargaining on the upcoming Jobs and Skills Summit next week.

ACTU's suggestion seeks to enable workers and their union representatives in negotiating and striking deals with multiple employers, even across sectors, to lift wages.

The suggestion comes as they called the current collective bargaining system, designed 30 years ago, "overly and unnecessarily complicated" and no longer provides an even playing field for workers.

"We need a bargaining system which is simple, fair and accessible for all," ACTU said in a statement. "To achieve this, we need more options for collective bargaining, including multi-employer or sector bargaining, which would allow multiple workplaces to make an agreement together. This would improve access to bargaining for large sections of the workforce."

ACTU raised the suggestion a week ahead of the upcoming Jobs and Skills Summit, where unions and businesses are expected to convene to address issues on the economy.

According to ACTU Secretary Sally McManus, the summit provides an opportunity for a review of the current bargaining system.

"We cannot fix wages growth without fixing collective bargaining. It is absolutely necessary for it to be modernised so that it delivers sustainable wages growth for today's workforce," said McManus in a statement.

"Allowing workers to band together across workplaces to bargain is an essential way of getting wages moving again after a lost decade of flatlining wages and real wage cuts. It should be unacceptable to all of us that real wage cuts are projected year upon year."

Read more: ACTU urges employees to 'check your payslips' after wage increase

ACTU lamented that only 14% of the workforce have up-to-date agreements, stressing that wages cannot be restored with the bargaining system getting fixed.

Previously, Workplace Relations Minister Tony Burke hinted the removal of "red tape" that discourages multi-employer collective bargaining, reported The Guardian.

"We want bargaining to happen in good faith – and we particularly want to make sure the bargaining system works for small business and for women," he said as quoted by the outlet.

"Ultimately if an employer and their workforce agree, and the union agrees, and people are going forwards in their wages, then why would we want to stand in the way of that," added the minister.

The Fair Work Act currently states that if two or more employers will be covered by a proposed enterprise agreement, they need to get the approval from the minister.

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