The right to collectively bargain was gutted by the Howard Government… unfortunately it looks like the Rudd Government may squib at fully restoring that right. Under the WorkChoices laws, Australian workers have no enforceable right to collectively bargain. Employers can indefinitely delay collective bargaining, denying their employees rights.
Collective bargaining at a workplace level is the most effective way to improve conditions and pay at work.
Paul Keating on collective bargaining:
If you go to 200 or 300 people in a factory or 200 or 300 people in a workplace and come to a three or four year bargain to the improve productivity and share it between wages and profits you’ve got a good chance of getting productivity from the whole enterprise. But if you just take one person at a time, bring them into the boss’ office and cut their wages there’s no chance of getting any productivity. That’s why trend productivity is now rapidly on the way down. It was 3 per cent under me. It’s now under 1 per cent. So how are we going to keep inflation low with, at the moment wages are running at about 4 per cent, productivity is under 1. This is consistent with an inflation rate of 3 per cent, or higher. The Reserve Bank knows that. That’s why they’ve got the rates on hold.
The great lie of the Howard Government in respect of workplace changes, they are simply a set of arrangements to keep unions out of workplaces. They’ve got nothing to do with productivity and the quicker we move away from that kind of discriminatory structure to a truly trust based co operative sharing of work and workloads, then we get back to reasonable levels of productivity and again, reasonable rates of growth in real wages. It’s no accident as you saw in today’s front page of The Sydney Morning Herald and other places that the wage share in the economy has gone down, and the profit share in the last four years has gone up because wages are now in real terms, are declining.
Labor’s policy is to legislate for collective bargaining rights, but it appears as more details come to light that no enforceable rights will be granted to Australia’s workers.
The ACTU is running a campaign to promote collective bargaining.