Enterprise bargaining agreement

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Enterprise bargaining is wage and working conditions being negotiated at the level of the individual organizations. Once established, they are legally binding on employers and employees. An Enterprise Bargaining Agreement (EBA) consists of a collective industrial agreement between either an employer and a trade union acting on behalf of employees or an employer and employees acting for themselves.

On the one hand collective agreements, at least in principle, benefit employers, as they allow for improved "flexibility" in such areas as ordinary hours, flat rates of hourly pay, and performance-related conditions. On the other hand collective agreements benefit workers, as they usually provide higher pay, bonuses, additional leave and enhanced entitlements (such as redundancy pay) than an award does.

EBAs in Australia[edit]

Unlike awards, which provide similar standards for all workers in the entire industry covered by a specific award, collective agreements usually apply only to workers for one employer - although on occasion a short-term collaborative agreement (for example, on a building-site) yields a multi-employer/employee agreement.

Parties endorse proposed enterprise bargaining agreements between themselves (in the case of employers the matter goes to a vote). Fair Work Australia then assess them for approval. (Under the Fair Work Act 2009, agreements now renamed "enterprise agreements" and are lodged with Fair Work Australia to assess entitlements against the modern award and be checked for breaches of the Act.) [1]

History of enterprise bargaining agreements[edit]

Enterprise Bargaining Agreements were first introduced in Australia under the Prices and Incomes Accord in 1991 (Mark VII). They later became the centrepiece of the Australian industrial relations system when the Accord was next revised in 1993 (Mark VIII). This ended nearly a century of centralised wage-fixing based industrial relations.

How an enterprise agreement is made[edit]

The Fair Work Act 2009 provides a simple, flexible and fair framework that assists employers and employees to bargain in good faith to make an enterprise agreement.

Employers, employees and their bargaining representatives are involved in the process of bargaining for a proposed enterprise agreement. An employer must notify their employees of the right to be represented by a bargaining representative during the bargaining of an enterprise agreement (other than a greenfields agreement) as soon as possible, and not later than 14 days after the notification time for the agreement (usually the start of bargaining). The notification should be given to each current employee who will be covered by the enterprise agreement.[2]

Use of enterprise bargaining agreements[edit]

A standard enterprise bargaining agreement would last for three years.

EBAs had one unique feature in Australia: whilst negotiating a federal enterprise bargaining agreement, a group of employees or a trade union could, without legal penalties, undertake industrial action (including strikes) in pursuit of their claims .

Issues regarding enterprise bargaining agreements[edit]

A major legal question associated with enterprise agreements stemmed from the High Court of Australia's decision in the case of Electrolux v The Australian Workers' Union. The question revolved around what these industrial instruments could cover. The Australian Industrial Relations Commission determined the matter in 2005 in the Three certified agreements case.

The future of EBAs in Australian industrial law[edit]

In the context of Australian labour law, the industrial reform of 2005 - 2006, known as "WorkChoices"[3] (with its corresponding amendments to the Workplace Relations Act (1996)) changed the name of such agreement documents to "Collective Agreement". State industrial legislation can also prescribe collective agreements, but the enactment of the WorkChoices reform will make such agreements less likely to occur.

Since the Fair Work Act was enacted, parties to Australian federal collective agreements now lodge their agreements with Fair Work Australia for approval. Before an enterprise agreement will be approved a member of the tribunal must be satisfied that employees employed under the agreement will be 'Better Off Overall' than if they were employed under the relevant modern award.

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Enterprise Bargaining Fact Sheet". FairWork. Australian Government. Retrieved 2013-09-26. 
  2. ^ "Enterprise Bargaining Fact Sheet". FairWork. Australian Government. Retrieved 2013-09-26. 
  3. ^ Hall, Richard (June 2006). "Australian Industrial Relations in 2005 - The WorkChoices Revolution". Journal of Industrial Relations 48 (3): 291–303. doi:10.1177/0022185606064786. Retrieved 26 September 2013.