Labor Minister questions future of enterprise bargaining

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Labor Minister questions future of enterprise bargaining

A senior SA Government Minister has questioned how long enterprise bargaining will last in Australia, saying it was good for workers but not employers and governments.

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A senior SA Government Minister has questioned how long enterprise bargaining will last in Australia, saying it was good for workers but not employers and governments.
 
Police Minister Michael Wright, a former industrial relations minister in the Rann Government, said the government had wondered for some time how long the ‘life cycle’ of enterprise bargaining would last.
 
Wright was speaking after public sector unions (led by ACTU president Ged Kearney) had rallied in Adelaide to protest over the government’s Budget decision to cut entitlements — including holiday loading and long service leave after 15 years.
 
These entitlements had originally been won through the enterprise bargaining process.
 
Runs in cycles
 
‘These different strategies tend to run in cycles, and this one probably has an end point,’ Wright said.
 
‘There was a lot of upside to the worker in regard to enterprise bargaining negotiations, not always the same upside to government and, I suspect, employers.’
 
However, he got no support from Federal Workplace Relations Minister Chris Evans, who said bargaining had been part of the Australian workplace relations system for more than 100 years.
 
Evans said the latest figures showed more than 2.2 million employees were covered by a record number of enterprise agreements.
 
‘The federal government is committed to maintaining a fair and balanced industrial relations system that is underpinned by a comprehensive safety net and has an agreement framework that encourages good-faith bargaining at the enterprise level,’ Senator Evans said.
 
Vicious attack
 
At last week’s rally Kearney described the removal of entitlements from public servants was a ‘vicious attack’ on workers by Premier Mike Rann and Treasurer Kevin Foley.
 
However, Wright said the cuts were necessary ‘to return to budget sustainability’.
 
However, the government is not entirely united on the issue, with left-aligned backbencher Stephanie Key attending the rally and saying she did not support the cuts.
 
‘It's what [former Prime Minister John] Howard did and we opposed that and it’s an unacceptable way of cutting workers’ entitlements,’ she said.
 
Extraordinary attack
 
Kearney told the rally that the union movement expected attacks on workers’ rights by the Coalition and industry, but was shocked by ‘an extraordinary attack from Labor leaders on good-faith bargaining principles’.
 
She said the ACTU was providing support for SA Unions to explore all legal avenues to block the move.
 
‘But we hope the SA government comes to its senses and we don’t have to go down that path,’ Kearney said.
 
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