Bargaining in crisis
For all your Union’s successes in bargaining, the system itself is under great strain. The provisions in the Fair Work Act are premised on reasonable people, acting reasonably, which is probably not a safe assumption in today’s industrial environment.
In our sector, we have seen several colleges refuse to renegotiate existing agreements (the Kaplan NSW agreement, for example, expired in 2016 and hasn’t been renewed, even if it does keep legal force), while other colleges have moved to terminate existing agreements (Think Education, for example), and where the Union does not have many (or any) members, it can be next to impossible to stop this via legal means.
The Centre for Future Work has found a steep decline in the numbers of employees covered by enterprise agreements (which generally have superior salaries and conditions to the prevailing award), with 34% fewer employees covered today than five years ago (roughly 662,000 workers).
To try and combat this, the ACTU has been pressuring the ALP to allow for industry-wide bargaining, and it does appear that something like this, albeit in a form limited to lower paid employees, will be in Labor’s Industrial relations platform for the coming election. Bargaining across an industry (such as the post secondary industry) should see a significant improvement in standards across that industry.