Australia

Labor weighing up industry-wide bargaining

Sally McManus. Source: AAP

Labor leader Bill Shorten says he's open to the ACTU's proposal to introduce sector-wide bargaining.

Labor will consider a push by unions to introduce industry-wide bargaining, with Opposition Leader Bill Shorten conceding enterprise agreements are delivering one-sided outcomes.

Australian Council of Trade Unions secretary Sally McManus will outline further plans to shake up the industrial relations system in a speech to Labor-aligned think-tank John Curtin Research Centre on Thursday night.

The union movement's spearhead will ramp up calls for sector-wide bargaining, which would allow employees to negotiate pay and conditions across industries rather than workplaces.

"Our narrow, restrictive system of single enterprise bargaining has failed in so many industries because business owners are encouraged to undercut one another to compete on wage costs," Ms McManus will say.

Mr Shorten believes after 25 years of enterprise bargaining, the balance has shifted away from workers.

"A lot of the rules about enterprise bargaining are creating one-sided outcomes and we are seeing wages growth stagnant," the Labor leader told the ABC on Thursday.

He backed unions' claim that economic growth in Australia was being unfairly distributed.

"The workers are being left behind, corporate profits are up," Mr Shorten said.

Under the ACTU's radical proposal, workers would get a new legal avenue to pursue unpaid wage and superannuation claims separate from the federal court.

Instead of an "economic" minimum wage, Ms McManus will also call for an umpire to ensure pay packets for Australia's lowest-paid workers do not lose touch with industry or community standards.

That body would also be charged with stamping out gender pay inequality.

"A feminised industry should no longer mean a low-paid industry," she will say.

The ACTU wants the umpire to have increased powers to mediate pay disputes, make bargaining more efficient and resolve conflicts in negotiations.

Ms McManus will detail plans for workers to access a quick, low-cost and easy-to-access jurisdiction to hear claims of unpaid wages or superannuation.

"It should not be a costly, lengthy process for working people to get back wages that have been stolen from them," Ms McManus will say.

"Employers should also have the expectation that there is a good chance they will get caught."

Under the plan, superannuation theft, discrimination and harassment in the workplace would be included in the industrial relations framework.

The new proposals are part of the ongoing Change The Rules campaign, which an elected Shorten Labor government would be pressured to implement.

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