Unions poised to act

by 08 Jul 2009

Employers should be equipped to deal with the Fair Work Act changes as unions are poised to intervene in workplaces at which their power has declined over the years under WorkChoices.

Good faith bargaining requirements – one of the key changes that came into ef fect on 1 July – will mirror many of the re quirements of US workplace law, according to law firm DLA Phillips Fox, and will restore unions’ bargaining power.

The US has more than 70 years’ experi ence of good faith bargaining and could be used as a guide for Australians transitioning to the new laws, through analysis of the strategies US employers and unions have adopted when bargaining, the firm believes.

Washington-based DLA Piper partner Joseph Turzi said experience shows that preparation is key when it comes to good faith bargaining.

“Under US labour, law parties are entitled to bargain hard. However, the greater the challenge in the negotiations the more diffi cult it is to know what you need to do to keep bargaining in good faith. It becomes more complicated. You can continue to bargain hard if you are prepared,” said Turzi.

Joydeep Hor, managing partner at Harmers Workplace Lawyers said that while a fair amount can be learned from both the NZ and US experi ences around good faith bargaining laws, there are other factors which are influencing Australian legislation which employers can draw from.

“Although the NZ and US workplace laws are well-developed and were models for the Australian legislation … Australian IR has its own unique history and recent political is sues here are probably more relevant than the overseas experience with good faith bar gaining laws,” said Hor.


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