Employers and unions are gearing up for a significant increase in bargaining activity this year. Thousands of enterprise bargaining agreements struck in the 12 months before the former Howard government’s WorkChoices laws came into effect in March 2006 start to expire this year.
As the Rudd Government phases out Australian Workplace Agreements, more employers are expected to introduce non-union enterprise bargaining agreements.
Employers will have to cope with legal changes, including the transitional legislation due to be introduced in February. Australian Industrial Relations Commission president, Geoffrey Giudice, is reported in The Australian Financial Review as saying that he expected a significant increase in bargaining activity in 2008.
The Rudd Government has also indicated that new laws covering collective bargaining could come into force by the end of the year.
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The Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry’s acting chief executive Peter Hendy reminds employers to proactively seek workplace changes that will improve productivity so that the collective bargaining rounds are not just driven by union agendas.
Meanwhile, with employers calling for greater flexibility, the Construction Forestry Mining and Energy Union has declared the 36 hour week and 26 fixed rostered days off a year as non-negotiable.
The assistant Victorian secretary of the CFMEU’s construction division, Bill Oliver, says the union has yet to formulate a full negotiating position, but would take a hard line on the working calendar. He says with the amount of work coming on board in Victoria, no one wants industrial problems.