The ACTU has come out with a plan to open up sector-wide negotiations to tackle low wage growth in Australia, which the PIAA has rejected, saying it would bring out ‘the law of the jungle’.
PIAA CEO Andrew Macaulay says; “The statements from ACTU to walk away from an enterprise bargaining system that ushered in one of the great periods of prosperity, opportunity and middle class growth in Australia’s history. The ALP and Coalition can both be proud of their leadership in this achievement.”
Macaulay notes that within the print industry, most employees are paid above the award wage, and that the ACTU should focus on the productivity gains which underpin wage growth, and not politics.
However the ACTU rejects the notion that enterprise bargaining had delivered economic growth, and told Australian Printer that wage growth is at an all time low despite increases in profit and productivity.
The ACTU says sector-wide bargaining should be available for everyone, to move beyond enterprise bargaining.
"What we want is for working people to be able to negotiate with a point of economic power. That is negotiate with whoever has the power to say “yes”. For some this is enterprise level, others it is sector wide, and for some it would be vertically in the supply chain. For some labour hire employees, this would be negotiating with the host employer or across a worksite,” a spokesperson for the ACTU said.
“It would mean changes to the Fair Work Act. It is more difficult to take industrial action in Australia compared to other countries.”
"Where industrial action is taken, it is only ever as the last resort.
"Part of what helps people negotiate effectively is a more equal relationship. It includes the ability to take industrial action as a last resort if necessary.
“Since the beginning of the enterprise bargaining era, awards have been progressively hollowed out, with conditions stripped in each phase of modernisation. They now lag well behind what’s needed. We need awards to keep pace with community expectations.
"Record low wages growth shows that the enterprise-only model is now too narrow in the modern economy. While enterprise bargaining should remain one of the options for collective bargaining, it can’t be the only option if we expect collective bargaining to lift wages for many more workers.
"Enterprise only bargaining is not delivering for millions of workers who are now relying on hollowed out awards to determine their pay and rights at work."
The PIAA says it will lobby strongly to defend small business ‘in all forums where these retrograde ACTU plans are raised.’
According to the Association ‘the ACTU has sought to call time on enterprise bargaining, in a bid to expose Australian small business to the law of the jungle’.
Sally McManus, ACTU secretary says, “Australia needs a pay rise and we have a plan that will deliver. Our plan will deliver an immediate wage increase for 2.3 million working people and restore the fair go for the lowest paid.
“The plan will also ensure that working people are not waiting for the non-existent ‘trickle-down effect’ to occur. Profits are up and productivity is up, but wages are not. The only way to ensure working people get their fair share in pay rises is to ensure they have the power they need to negotiate them.
“This will benefit every working person now and into the future. It is a permanent fix to unfair, low wage growth and will restore the balance to working people once again get a fair go at work.”
“ACTU Secretary Sally McManus has been explicit; unions want to return Australia to the dark days of 1970s industry wide strikes,” says the PIAA. The ACTU has rejected assertions that the same would occur if its plan was put in place, pointing out that union saturation was 50 per cent at the time, and now sits at 17 per cent.
Macaulay contends, “Enterprise bargaining has helped deliver 26 years of continuous economic growth. The majority of the print and packaging sector are SMEs, and enterprise bargaining has enabled agility. Business is not willing to throw this away.”
It is the perspective of the PIAA that returning to industry wide claims and strikes can only damage small business.
“The ACTU calls this a blueprint to give Australia a pay rise, it is actually a blueprint to stalling employment, for strikes and increased union power at the expense of jobs – unless wage increases are affordable one person’s pay rise will cost another person their job,” says PIAA.
Macaulay acknowledges “There are practical problems in the enterprise bargaining system that need to be fixed. We call on responsible unions to work with industry to fix the system, not destroy it.
“The measures that the ACTU want to take to fix it are not about helping anybody. It is about strengthening union power. The only way to enhance the existing system is to enhance productivity and flexibility for the worker. The union is going in the opposite direction.”
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