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Multi-employer bargaining under “Secure Jobs, Better Pay” – 10 implications for employers

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Across a range of disciplines, the Fair Work Amendment (Secure Jobs, Better Pay) Act 2022 will bring a paradigm shift. Indeed, on our count, there are thirteen new civil penalty laws aimed at employers arising from new obligations.

But the most profound change will be in the area of workplace bargaining as our previous blogs, which you can read here and here, have highlighted. Not surprisingly, it’s where we are seeing much thinking done by many of our clients.

In this blog, we share 10 implications for workplace bargaining arising from the Secure Jobs, Better Pay Act. Our focus here is on the changes that have strategic impact rather than the process-related changes (such as those to the better off overall test or requirements to secure genuine employee agreement).

The 10 strategic implications of the new legislation are:

  1. There are three streams covering “multi-employer agreements”. Two of the three, the “supported bargaining agreement” and “single-interest employer agreement” will change the workplace bargaining landscape over the medium term by shifting away from enterprise based terms and conditions to industry based arrangements. We say medium term (say, two years or so) because there is a nine month grace period before these changes commence operating, and because there will be a rush to secure single-enterprise agreements to keep out of the new streams. But it is only a matter of time before the new streams bite, and when they do they will bite hard.
  2. That change to industry based terms will arise because of the capacity of unions to effectively “rope-in” employers to such agreements, which will essentially be made along industry lines. Of course, the idea of being “roped-in”, even by a majority employee vote, is counter to the idea of “agreement”. In many cases there will be no negotiation and the terms will already be set.

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