Where is enterprise bargaining heading?

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Where is enterprise bargaining heading?

Almost one half of all Australian workplaces undertook individual bargaining with some of their non-managerial employees during 1995, while approximately 25% of workplaces have some non-managerial employees covered by individual employment agreements.

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Almost one half of all Australian workplaces undertook individual bargaining with some of their non-managerial employees during 1995, while approximately 25% of workplaces have some non-managerial employees covered by individual employment agreements.

These were just some of the findings in the recently published federal Department of Industrial Relation’s "1995 Annual Report on Enterprise Bargaining in Australia". This is its second annual bargaining report.

While it focussed on federal agreements the report also examined state and unregistered agreements. The following are some of the Report’s more significant findings.

Shift to workplace level. All types of agreements showed a marked shift from the enterprise to the workplace. As a consequence workplace managers, union delegates and employees were more likely to be involved in bargaining than previously, with less reliance on managers external to the workplace, higher level consultative committees and external trade union involvement.

Coverage. A majority of federal award employees were covered by federally registered agreements. Industries covered by federal enterprise agreements changed between 1994 and 1995 with more agreements being struck in manufacturing.

Employee coverage. The average number of employees covered per agreement in 1995 was 198, compared with 331 in 1994. The average federal agreement covered more employees than did state or unregistered agreements. While there were more agreements in the smaller manufacturing sites, the large agreements were still in government administration, defence, communication, health and community services.

Outcomes. Manufacturing agreements provided the biggest annualised wage increases. In 1995 the average annualised increase was 4.5% per employee (metals manufacturing 5.2%, other manufacturing 4.7%, public sector 3.9%, services 4.3%).

Why Bargain? Productivity continued to be the major reason managers entered into workplace agreements. Interestingly, employers with informal local agreements were more likely to be satisfied with their agreement and to report improvements in productivity, quality of product and service.

Industrial Disputation. Industrial disputes associated with bargaining increased in 1995 especially in the metals, health and welfare industries. Disputation was more likely with state agreements (60% of workplaces) than federal (44% of workplaces).

So where is enterprise bargaining heading?

The Report highlighted the following issues as emerging directions:

  • the increasing use of individual bargaining and the number of workplaces where non-managerial employees were covered by individual employment agreements; and,
  • the marked shift away from enterprise focussed agreements to workplace focussed agreements, where there is a greater opportunity for employees to be directly involved in the agreement making process.

The Report concluded that the federal Government’s Workplace Relations Legislation will support these directions.

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