Industry-wide collective bargaining – part of an independent working class agenda
One of the just demands of the ACTU's Change the Rules campaign is to change industrial laws to enable workers to struggle together to win industry or sector wide collective agreements.
The enterprise and/or workplace specific bargaining system was implemented under the Labor Government in the early 1990s and supported at that time by some union leaderships that had large union memberships in large production workplaces. It may for a while have provided improvements in pay and conditions for a small percentage of the working class. However, it quickly took a turn for the worse for workers when the then Labor Party Industrial Relations Minister Laurie Brereton introduced a non-union bargaining stream which enabled capitalists to have site specific collective agreements approved in workplaces across most industries where union membership was low or non-existent.
In 2018, the strongly supported campaign for industry or sector wide bargaining will need to build even more momentum after the next federal election. Whether it is a Coalition or Labor Government, the devil will be in the detail of any legislation on collective bargaining as to which class a shift in the law from enterprise to industry or sector wide bargaining favours.
Several union leaders in the last week's Change the Rules rallies around the country made the timely point that the struggle for better collective bargaining rights will need to keep building momentum after the federal election irrespective of the election result.
This was heartening to hear as it contributes to the building of an independent working class agenda that extends beyond parliamentary election cycles.