Common law contracts or collective agreements:  Labor's IR plan

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Common law contracts or collective agreements: Labor's IR plan

If a majority of workers vote against collective bargaining under Labor's new IR policy, the Australian Industrial Relations Commission could order that wages and conditions be agreed through other available workplace options, including common law contracts.

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If a majority of workers vote against collective bargaining under Labor's new IR policy, the Australian Industrial Relations Commission could order that wages and conditions be agreed through other available workplace options, including common law contracts.

However all options would be subject to Labor's new minimum standards. And Labor's plan to allow workers to insist on having a collective agreement may involve secret ballots run by the Australian Industrial Relations Commission.

These details have been provided by Opposition IR spokesman Stephen Smith in the face of criticism of the policy from the Howard Government and employer groups.

ALP approach

Smith said that under Kim Beazley's approach:

  • If the employer and his/her employees choose to bargain collectively, they should be free to do so.
  • If the employer unilaterally refuses to bargain collectively, the employees or their union on their behalf, should have the opportunity to ask the independent umpire - the Industrial Relations Commission - to allow them the opportunity to bargain collectively.
  • The Commission should decide whether collective bargaining is preferred by a majority of employees in the workplace. This can include conducting a secret ballot of employees to determine their support or opposition to collective bargaining.
  • If the Commission concludes that a majority of employees in the workplace want collective bargaining, then it can order that a collective bargaining process commence.
  • If the Commission concludes that there is not majority support for collective bargaining, then it can order that wages and conditions be agreed through other available workplace options, including common law contracts, subject to Labor's new minimum standards.

More work needed

Smith admitted there is more work and consultation to be done before Labor adopts its detailed policy in the lead-up to next year's election.

'Labor will continue to consult with employers, unions and all relevant parties about the details of its approach to collective bargaining,' he said.

'This consultation process will ensure a modern, fair and flexible system that balances the interests of both employers and employees, for the overall benefit of our nation.'

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