The Official Organ of LaborNET
click here to view the latest edition of Workers Online
The Official Organ of LaborNET
Free home delivery
October 2006   

Interview: Cowboys and Indians
Finance Sector Union national secretary Paul Schroder is standing between the big banks and a bucket of money.

Industrial: Seven Deadly Sins
Chris Christodoulou gives seven reasons why WorkChoices is bad for business

Unions: The IT Factor
The future of Australian IT looks grim as big companies lead the rush to India and China, writes Jackie Woods.

Politics: Bargain Basement
Simple principles of democracy underpin the ACTU's collective bargaining proposal, insists ACTU Secrteary Greg Combet.

Environment: An Inconvenient Hoax
Al Gore may be warning of climate breakdown, but what hope the truth when he's up against such a well-oiled machine? asks Paul Sheridan

Corporate: Two Sides
Bilateral trade agreements are a good idea � just ask the US multinationals. The rest of us should strongly disagree says Pat Ranald

International: Unfair Dismissals
Nearly 10,000 workers were fired for their trade union activities in 2005, an annual trade union survey shows.

History: A Stitch in Time
Neale Towart takes some lessons from female textile workers while considering the case for recognition ballots.

Review: The Wind that Shakes the Barley
A film charting the turmoil of the Irish war for independence against British occupation during the 1920s might seem an odd choice for top honours at the Cannes Film Festival in 2006.


The Westie Wing
Ian West takes a walk around the backyard with the Prime Minister�

The Soapbox
Rise Up
Hugo Chavez's explosive address to the United Nations

The Fear Factor
A new analysis of the history of fear takes us from the war on terror all the way to the modern workplace.


The Road to Bangalore
A funny thing is happening as the major corporations plan their latest heist on the Australian public � the off shoring of an estimated two million white collar jobs to low cost countries like India.


 OWS Blesses Tassie Plunder

 Feds Knew About Wage Slashing

 Data Farmers' Bitter Harvest

 Umpire Delivers to Posties

 It's a Goal - Compass Out-Pointed

 Childcare Giant Goes Union

 Meat Head Jumps The Queue

 AWAs � Thanks a Million

 Vets� Fight On

 TB Threat From FoC Ship

 Hamberger in Cancer Blue

 AMWU Challenges Forced Deportation

 Let�s Dance � Andrews Get Hot

 Legal Centres Under Threat

 Activists Notebook

About Workers Online
Latest Issue
Print Latest Issue
Previous Issues
Advanced Search

other LaborNET sites

Labor Council of NSW
Vic Trades Hall Council
IT Workers Alliance
Unions on LaborNET
Evatt Foundation

Labor for Refugees



Bargain Basement

Simple principles of democracy underpin the ACTU's collective bargaining proposal, insists ACTU Secrteary Greg Combet.


THE difference between the labour movement and the federal Government on the issue of collective bargaining in Australia is now clear.

Prime Minister John Howard has categorically committed his Government to opposing any right for Australian workers to collectively bargain with their employer, even where that is what a majority of employees in a workplace want.

According to the PM, the reason Australian employees should have no choice regarding the type of agreement they are covered by in the workplace is that he believes the employer alone should make that decision. He said: ``Now our position is very clear and that is that it's for the employer to determine the nature of the industrial arrangement in a workplace ... And we also support the right of the employer to decide the nature of the industrial structure.''

Under Work Choices the federal Government has unashamedly handed employers the unilateral right to make all the decisions about how and on what terms Australian workers will be employed.

In contrast to this, the ACTU last week released a detailed policy discussion paper advocating the right of Australian workers to collectively bargain with their employer. It proposes that if there is a difference of views on the form of agreement to be negotiated, the majority view of the employees should prevail.

The policy proposal outlined by the ACTU is based on three principles.

First, if people freely exercise the choice to be a union member, then they are entitled to union representation. This fundamental and basic right is not protected under the federal Government's industrial relations laws.

Second, in relation to collective bargaining there should be an obligation on employers, unions and employees to negotiate with each other in good faith.

Third, where there is disagreement between an employer and the employees about whether there should be a collective agreement in a workplace, that disagreement should be resolved by testing the majority view of the employees, whether they are union members or not.

If those employees resolve that they want a collective agreement, then that should bind the employer and good-faith bargaining negotiations should ensue.

This is a democratic principle that should be part of Australia's industrial relations laws.

The federal Government has misrepresented the ACTU proposal by suggesting that a minority of employees, or even a single union member, could force an employer into a collective agreement against the employer's will even if collective bargaining is not supported by a majority of employees in the workplace.

This is not true. On the contrary, the enforceable obligation on an employer to collectively bargain with their work force would only be triggered where a majority of workers have expressed a preference for collective bargaining. It is also important to be clear that the policy being advocated by the ACTU does not mean that all collective bargaining that occurs in Australian workplaces would necessarily be preceded by a ballot of employees.

The ACTU proposal is that employers, employees and unions should be free to voluntarily enter into collective bargaining at any time.

Even under Work Choices, most collective bargaining in Australian workplaces occurs by mutual consent between employers, employees and unions. There is no need to place additional hurdles in the way of employers and groups of employees who are already working constructively together.

However, where there is a contest or disagreement about bargaining -- where, as is increasingly the case under the Government's laws, an employer is insisting on individual contracts and the employees want a collective agreement -- then under the ACTU proposal the majority view of the workers would act as a circuit-breaker.

The views of employees could be ascertained by various means, such as a workplace meeting, a petition or a secretballot. If there is any doubt or debate about what mechanism should be used, then the Industrial Relations Commission would have the power to order a secret ballot.

The freedom of people to associate in a union and the right of workers to collectively bargain are internationally recognised human rights. These are not new, radical, revolutionary or economically irresponsible ideas.

They are contained in the UN Charter of Human Rights and the core labour standards of the International Labour Organisation, both of which Australia is a signatory to. The principles that underpin these rights are widely recognised as essential to the effective functioning of a successful liberal democracy.

In free and democratic societies, collective bargaining is a fundamental mechanism through which individual employees are able to rebalance the inequality in power and negotiating positions in the workplace between a single worker and their employer.

It is the principal means for giving workers a fair say in the workplace.


email workers to a friend printer-friendly version latest breaking news from labornet

Search All Issues | Latest Issue | Previous Issues | Print Latest Issue

© 1999-2002 Workers Online
Workers Online is a resource for the Labour movement
provided by the Labor Council of NSW
Last Modified: 06 Oct 2006

Powered by APT Solutions
Labor Council of NSW Workers Online