ACTU Plans to Disrupt Agreement Making Tactical Response

In some enterprise bargaining situations, employers make concessions that they cannot sustain down the track, and they have trouble re-negotiating replacement deals which alleviate the problems. So they have resorted to having the expired agreement actually terminated so that the difficulties they have encountered are removed.

This has caused concern to the unions and their members in these workplaces. This is because the agreements deliver better conditions and pay then the awards that would otherwise apply. The Australian Council of Trade Unions has announced the commencement of a campaign to counter this employer approach.

The ACTU has established a task force within its ranks to raise public awareness of the process and will highlight the negative effects of reduced conditions in regional areas, such as the Western Australian coal mining town of Collie.

Recently, some employers have adopted a termination approach when bargaining has stalled or stalemated over a long period of time. Traditionally there have been few successful applications to terminate agreements but following the Aurizon Case [2015] FCAFC 126 it has become more widespread.

Employers need to weigh up carefully the pros and cons of adopting this approach as it could be counter-productive. As the ACTU highlights in its Collie campaign, in some situations, the knock-on effects of such an action can be quite extensive. Reputational damage is a key consideration also. Bargaining can be tough, but it ought not to be approached in a vacuum.

Support for the people of Collie, ACTU executive resolution, November 15, 2016