Published: 09/08/2022
Category: On The Job
Published: 09/08/2022
Category: On The Job

If Australia is genuine about giving a fair go to workers, then it’s falling well short of its goal.

Let’s look at the scoreboard.

Profits up. Workers and staff in demand all over the country. Inflation through the roof. Wages continuing to tank, and workers facing real pay cuts as the cost-of-living crisis kicks them while they’re down.

It’s not right.

Enterprise bargaining is the system of setting wages and conditions and ensuring productivity grows as well. It means workers can earn decent wages and the economy will see healthy growth. In theory, it should deliver a win for everyone. Right now though, that’s simply not happening.

Anthony Albanese’s Government have committed to looking under the hood of the Australian economy and having an honest conversation about what does and doesn’t work.

For Australian Workers Union National Secretary Dan Walton, addressing the disfunction of the enterprising bargaining process needs to be front and centre in discussions.

“Despite being in a high inflation environment, despite seeing the costs of everything going up, those settings would ordinarily point towards workers being able to get a decent increase in their wages, what we see is more money going towards profit, less money going towards workers pockets instead,” Walton said.

As a consequence of that, we are finding ourselves in a situation where workers are struggling to keep up and to be able to afford to function and provide for their families. We’re trying to find ways to make sure that they can get a fair and equitable pay rise across different parts of the economy.

Daniel Walton
Australian Workers’ Union National Secretary

Daniel Walton  -  Australian Workers' Union National Secretary

“The wage offers that we’ve seen are the same as the wage offers we’ve seen dribble through over the last decade. There is no fair and reasonable distribution of those profits. There is no realisation from the business community that workers are under extreme pressure to keep food on the table and to be able to function go about the day their daily lives,” he said.

The harsh reality of the failure of enterprise bargaining to deliver outcomes for workers has never been more stark. The Consumer Price Index (CPI) figures released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) reveal that inflation has risen to 6.1%, an increase of 1.8% for the June quarter.

That is a huge blow for working families who were already on a watching brief for every dollar they earned and spent.

ACTU President Michele O’Neil sees a vital opportunity ahead for some frank conversations about the reality facing working Australians.

The need to get wages moving again is urgent. Business as usual will not turn this around, it will not fix this. We can’t expect Australians to spend their hard-earned money on discretionary items if they can barely afford the necessities. We need fair and equitable wages and we need them now.

Michele O’Neil
ACTU President

Michele O'Neil  -  ACTU President

Dan Walton knows all too well how convoluted and archaic the enterprise bargaining process has become. Getting a result for workers is slow and frustrating.

Ten years of conservative government and bad faith engagement from employers has deliberately made the system unworkable.

“We have to go through several different jumps and hoops and routes to actually get employers to the table. And that takes an extraordinary amount of time.  When we’re in bargaining and employers are stonewalling and wanting to drag it out and slow down any meaningful offers on the table, negotiations can go on for months and months,” Walton said.

“If you look at it from the start, right through the end of trying to get a decent offer on the table, it’s very time consuming for workers who right now are doing it extremely tough,” he said.

Workers have been hamstrung by a system stacked against them. It’s high time that we showed some enterprise and put fairness back on the agenda.

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Cover photo credit: Jason Goodman on Unsplash

We need a new approach to make Australia’s economy fair for workers

We need a new approach to make Australia’s economy fair for workers