The Morrison government has reduced the time needed to discuss changes in wages and conditions in company agreements to allow for a rapid response to the coronavirus crisis. Unions have condemned changes to employment rules that only allow employees to vote on changes to company agreements 24 hours in advance. He noted that “many company agreements have been concluded in better times and contain provisions that prevent companies from reacting to the COVID-19 crisis.” A report by the Centre for Future Work published today warns of a serious decline in the number of company agreements (EAs) and the number of workers covered by company agreements, so that more workers are not able to negotiate a salary higher than the mark-up. In order for an agreement to be approved by the Commission, it must pass the global better-off test (BOOT) and meet other legal requirements. Registered agreements are valid until terminated or issued. CUTA secretary Sally McManus thinks Australia`s trading system is “broken” for businesses. While Jennifer Westacott, CEO of the Business Council of Australia, may not have used the same phrase, she did acknowledge her accuracy by saying that company-wide negotiations are “slowly collapsing before us.” While CUTA and the BCA are largely in agreement on the current state of the bargaining system and both organizations rely strongly on the federal government to find solutions, Australia would be better off overall without this labour relations policy. Labour productivity growth, a key element in improving the standard of living of all Australians, is currently negative. Far from being a solution, corporate negotiations offer little or no opportunity to exchange higher wages for productivity gains in the workplace. The vast majority of company agreements provide for wage increases of up to four years in advance, while curbing increasingly restrictive work practices.
Many union officials refuse to accept significant productivity improvements during negotiations. It is wrong to think that the resumption of corporate negotiations will contribute to further the decline in labour productivity in Australia. A company agreement may be concluded between one or more employers and two or more workers with their elected representatives. If, after the conclusion of a company agreement, there is no replacement agreement approved by the Commission, the minimum working conditions shall be laid down in the applicable modern distinction. . . .