A business owner of a manufacturing company is aghast.
His lawyer has just informed him that although his company has only a few employees who are members of a union, the union will soon be able to walk in the door and demand to be part of discussions around enterprise agreements and collective bargaining.
His lawyer told him that the union can require him to respond to a proposal on wages and conditions and to expect ambit claims like 15% pay rises over three years or 20% super.
The business owner was also aghast to find out that his company could be ordered to hand over all types of information on the conduct of the business to union officials, including confidential financial information.
“I can’t believe we could have a system where the union can so readily impose itself where nearly all employees are not members,” he says.
He is not alone.
The affects of changes mooted in the new IR legislation are just now starting to dawn on companies. Business owners often don’t really focus on an issue until they have to… they have too much on their minds.
Also, as one lawyer puts it, they are dealing with new concepts around unions and worker’s rights that are unfamiliar in an Australian context.
“They simply can’t believe policy like this will get up, so they haven’t tuned in. They can not believe that if they have only one member who is in a union, they will be forced to negotiate and that the results will be binding on all employees.”
So what has the lawyer advised the employer? Get ready for change.
The key is to ensure you have good relationships with your staff so you don’t defer your responsibilities as an employer to a third party (union). Meanwhile expect employer groups to start making a lot more noise as their members are told by their advisers to prepare.