Letter to the Editor
[First published in The Australian Financial
Review, 16 November 2007]
Paul Gollan's "Unions will relish life inder Labor"
(Opinion, 14 November) points outs that the union dominance
of the ALP has created doubts over Kevin Rudd's ability to contain
inflation and manage the economy. He also raises the important
question of whether the provision in Labor's proposed workplace
relations changes allowing non-union collective agreements will
work in practice.
It is relevant that, although such agreements were first
allowed in 1993 by the Keating government, the continuation of
highly regulated requirements, imposed centrally, prevented
(as the Keating government's IR department reported in 1995)
"radically different outcomes in terms of workplace relations"
under either enterprise or non-union agreements.
When the coalition's legislation came into operation in 1997
only 261 such agreements existed (now 2441) and most enterprise
agreements had varied only one condition in the award determined
by the centralised authority , the Australian Industrial Relations
In short, Mr Keating's recent claims to have established a
major reform is a myth.
Under Labor's proposed new industrial relations system, centrally
imposed regulations would be even more extensive than in the
immediate post 1993 situation
Thus, although Shadow Minister Gillard says it would be possible
to have non-union collective agreements, the obligation to bargain
in good faith (which does not exist under WorkChoices) would
undoubtedly create greatly increased opportunities for unions
to obtain union collective agreements.
Moreover, all collective agreements - union or other - would
have to comply with 10 minimum legislated standards and a further
potential 10 that could be arbitrated under the proposed industry
awards to be determined annually by Labor's new central authority
that would replace the AIRC but have even more power to intervene
in workplace arrangements.
Even if under Labor non-union collective agreements were
able to be concluded, they would be subject to a much more complicated
and inflexible system of regulation that would undoubtedly be
conducive to higher increases in wages (nominal but not real)
and reduced growth in employment.