- The Guardian
- Issue #2027
Photo: Anna Pha
The Albanese Labor government has committed to introducing multi-employer bargaining following a deal with the Business Council of Australia (BCA) at the Jobs and Skills Summit to weaken the Better Off Overall Test (BOOT). However, it remains to be seen what rights will be given to workers under the legislation. With business groups pushing back on allowing industry-wide strike action, the ALP is signalling that it will implement a sell-out deal that makes multi-employer bargaining compulsory but denies workers the right to take industrial action.
Multi-employer bargaining with the right to strike is key for the Australian working class, especially in the logistics and manufacturing industries. Workers could collectively shut down entire industries, wielding massive power against both employers and the government, forcing better pay and conditions for everyone. We need to reject any sell-out deals and push for the unobstructed right to bargain and strike collectively.
The Communist Party of Australia Logistics and Manufacturing Branch calls for:
- The right to multi-employer bargaining with the unrestricted right to strike;
- Trade union-negotiated collective industry agreements in every workplace;
- The defence of the Better Off Overall Test;
- Full employment and the right to secure work with full entitlements;
- Unrestricted right of entry to workplaces for union officials;
- Rights for workplace union representatives;
- Union run labour hiring halls and an end to labour hire companies.
WHAT IS IT MULTI-EMPLOYER BARGAINING AND WHY DO WE NEED IT?
Australian unions once bargained collectively across entire industries. However, in the early 1990s, this was banned in most cases and replaced with the current enterprise bargaining system. Since then, real wages, union membership, and the number of workers covered by union agreements have plummeted while cost of living and wealth inequality has skyrocketed.
Multi-employer bargaining allows unions to create agreements that cover more than one employer in an industry. This allows workers under different employers in the same industry to unite and struggle together for higher pay and conditions. Importantly, it allows the possibility of bargaining across an entire industry. Multi-employer or industry bargaining massively increases the effectiveness of industrial action.
Strike action is one of the most important and powerful weapons of workers. The ability to shut down multiple workplaces or entire industries would give Australian workers much more power over their employers and the government, opening the door to serious political changes including better pay and conditions.
ALP SELL-OUT THREATENS MULTI-EMPLOYER BARGAINING
While the BCA is supporting multi-employer bargaining, business lobbies are campaigning hard against the right to take industrial action as part of any bargaining reforms.
Department documents tabled in the Senate show that the ALP doesn’t plan to allow industry-wide strikes as part of its reforms. Multi-employer bargaining without strike action is already allowed if employers and the Minister agree.
Allowing workers to force multiple employers to bargain but denying them the right to take industrial action would rob the reform of any meaningful impact and mean that workers would have almost no power in negotiations.
In exchange for this sham reform, the ALP is promising to “simplify” the Better Off Overall Test to make it easier for companies to sign agreements that push some workers’ pay and conditions below the Award.
The ALP is collaborating with business to decrease conditions and prevent workers from exercising any power in society. We need to oppose class collaboration and sell-out deals and fight for the unrestricted right to strike.