ACTU Factsheet: Collective bargaining rights for workers

Labor’s policy will give workers a right to collectively bargainwhere that is what the majority of workers in a workplace want. Employers will be free to bargain collectively with unions orw ith non-union employees on a voluntary basis about any issues agreed between them. The Howard Government’s restrictions on matters which can be negotiatedwill be removed.

An employerwill not be able to refuse to bargain in good faith where amajority of employees wish to bargain collectively. If there is a disagreement about what employees want, FairWork Australia (the new industrial umpire) will decide whether the employer must agree to bargain. Union members will be able to be collectively represented by their union.

FairWork Australia will have a role in making sure employers and unions are bargaining in good faith. If necessary, FairWork Australia will be able to make orders that an employer or union:

• Attend meetings at reasonable times,

• Consider and respond to proposals from the other side,

• Disclose relevant information,with protection for commercially confidential material,

• Refrain from conduct which is unfair or which undermines freedom of association or collective bargaining.

Collective agreements

Agreements will be able to be made between employers and unions or directly with employees.

Most agreements will be at the enterprise level, but there is scope for multi-employer agreements. This may occur by agreement, or for low paidorkers in industries like child care, cleaning and community services.

There will be no restrictions on thematters which can be included in agreements.

Collective agreements will be approved if:

• Their terms are lawful,

• Bargaining was conducted in good faith,

• Employees covered by the agreement are overall better off compared with the safety net,

• They have a term of nomore than 4 years,

• A majority of employees voted in favour of the agreement.

Fair Work Australia will be required to approve agreements within 7 days.

AWA individual contracts abolished: Labor will abolish AWA individual contracts

AWA individual contracts have been used by the Howard Government to cut wages and remove basic entitlements like overtime pay and penalty rates.

Unfair AWAs will be replaced with a fair system of collective agreements underpinned by a strong safety net and bargaining rights for workers.

A clear choice for working families at the next election

Labor’s industrial relations policy is a positive alternative to the Howard Government’s harsh and unfair Work Choices regime.

The policy provides for:

• remedies for unfair dismissal.

• a new independent umpire.

• a strong safety net of minimum standards and award entitlements.

• abolition of AWAs and a fair system of collective bargaining.

Printed and authorised by Sharan Burrow, Level 6, 365 Queen St Melbourne VIC 3000

"Better off overall" test

Work conditions protected

Labor’s rules for collective

bargaining will contribute to

economic productivity as well

as fairness.


Collective agreements are flexible enough tomeet the needs of individual businesses and their employees.

The ACTU agrees with Labor that collective bargaining fosters teamwork and employee commitment to the workplace. Improved loyalty and morale lowers labour turnover which, in turn, delivers better performance and productivity.

Award provisions can be replaced in workplace agreements only if the workers are better off overall.

This is totally different from the Government’s so called "fairness" test which:

• Excludes 1 million workers currently on workplace agreements or who earn more than $75,000 per annum

• Allows penalty rates to be removed for non monetary benefits like car parking or store discounts

• Excludes disadvantaged workers, such as the long term unemployed, young people and the disabled, as well as those in regional and rural areas

• Excludes employees of businesses in difficult financial circumstances or whose competitors are paying less

• Excludes conditions like redundancy pay

Industrial action

Workers will be able to take protected industrial action during a collective bargaining process conducted in good faith and where a majority of the workers involved have voted in favour of taking action in a secret ballot.

Industrial action will not be protected in any other circumstances. It will remain unlawful for employers to pay workers for time on strike.

Fair Work Australia will have the power to end industrial action and decide the issues where protracted action is causing significant harm to the participants or where it might cause significant damage to the economy or to the safety or welfare of the community.

Authorised by Sharan Burrow, Level 6, 365 Queen St Melbourne VIC 3000