Back to the future

Richard Rudman writes at Politik:

The Minister of Workplace Relations and Safety, Iain Lees-Galloway, says the aim is to design a collective bargaining system to lift wages and productivity. A fair pay agreement between workers and employers would set minimum terms and conditions for all workers in the industry or occupation covered by the agreement.

Dust off your copies of awards made by the Arbitration Court from the late 1800s through to the 1970s — because they set minimum terms and conditions for all workers in an industry or occupation, nationally or regionally or, in some cases, for a single enterprise.

Indeed this is effectively a return to .

But there was one key difference which makes this an unlikely recipe for the future.

The state-sponsored system of collective bargaining and arbitration relied on what was commonly known as compulsory unionism.

As a result, for example, every typist and filing clerk in the country — in the private sector anyway — had to be a member of the clerical workers’ union and had the minimum terms and conditions of her or his employment set by the national clerical workers’ award.

This is even worse. You may choose not to join the union, but the union may get to negotiate on your behalf the terms and conditions for the entire industry you work in. And them I suspect you’ll end up being forced to pay them for the privilege.

The notion that all employers of workers in a particular industry or occupation would willingly agree to be parties to a single agreement, or that all those workers would voluntarily have their pay and conditions set in collective bargaining, flies in the face of trends in the world of work.

Labour claims to be focused on the future of work, but their policies are about trying to return to the past.

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