24th March 2020
As millions of Australians find themselves out of work in the wake of the Coronavirus pandemic, employers and trade unions are finding themselves in a most unexpected and unpleasant situation. This predicament may well be the beginnings of a new and more consultative approach to industrial relations.
Enterprise bargaining specialist, Ross Clarke has been in the bargaining room for 25 years and he believes this crisis is presenting business with the opportunity to totally remodel their approach to industrial relations.
“To get through this we really must work together – by that I mean the employers and the trade unions who represent the employees must be willing to plan quickly, to listen to one another and to adjust accordingly.
“In my view, any plan presented by business is a failed plan if you have not consulted your most important stakeholders – your employees.”
Ross says that consultation with employees and trade unions is something that many businesses shy away from. He believes it is the key to creating a robust and secure workplace and that if you are not already doing it, now is the time to test the consultation model.
“All of my dealings with the trade union movement about this crisis, have highlighted their total understanding of the problem, and a willingness to work with business to ensure their members can remain in paid work for as long as possible,” says Ross.
These sentiments are being reiterated by the Attorney General and Minister for Industrial Relations, Christian Porter who said in Parliament yesterday, “Some very important meetings are occurring now between senior union leaders, who have been fantastic, and senior business leaders, who have been fantastic, to see if they can reach agreement around the types of things and specific awards that we might be able to modify through existing processes provided for in the act to save jobs. They are cooperating as they have never cooperated before. They’re cooperating as if jobs depend on that cooperation, because they do. I look forward to further cooperation from members opposite.”
Strong leadership, planning, consultation with employees and the ability to respond with agility will be rewarded in the long term and it will be an important part of the rebuild when it comes.
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