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Bargaining dynamics in Australia in a post-Secure Jobs, Better Pay world

26 May 2023 | Australia
Legal Briefings – By Rohan Doyle and Emma Vautin


What are the impacts of the Secure Jobs, Better Pay reforms on bargaining dynamics and what can employers do to approach bargaining planning in the new world of industrial relations.

The Secure Jobs, Better Pay reforms represent the most significant structural change to enterprise bargaining since the introduction of the Fair Work Act. These changes will affect not only the way in which enterprise agreements (EAs) are made, but will also shift the balance of power at the bargaining table firmly towards unions.  This shift will require employers to rethink their bargaining strategies and planning.

Key legal reforms that impact bargaining dynamics

There are 5 key reforms which significantly impact bargaining dynamics:

Looked at collectively, these are significant changes. Bargaining is going to be different, and employers will be more likely to be forced into deals that they do not want, or are unsustainable. The strategies and tactics of the past simply won’t work anymore.

While there may be some benefits for certain employers in this new world or bargaining (for example, some employers might be attracted to the new intractable bargaining jurisdiction as a potential exit strategy for drawn out bargaining rounds), it is clear that on the whole employers will have less bargaining power and will find bargaining more difficult.

With reduced bargaining power, it is more important than ever that employers plan carefully and use the few tools that remain available to them to full effect.

So, what should employers do to prepare in this new world of bargaining?

There is no question that the bargaining environment is becoming much more challenging for employers. The legislative changes we have referred to, and the change in bargaining strategy and tactics, is likely to see a huge gulf in the bargaining outcomes achieved by those who prepare well and adjust to this new environment, and those who do not. 

If you require any assistance with the bargaining planning process following these reforms, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with a member of our team.

Partners Rohan Doyle and Tony Wood discuss all of these tips and more in episode 9 of Inside IR, listen below.

Inside IR - Episode 9: Bargaining preparation in the new world of IR

In this episode, partners Rohan Doyle and Tony Wood discuss bargaining dynamics arising from changes to union and employer leverage following the Secure Jobs, Better Pay reforms, and share practical suggestions for how employers should approach bargaining planning in this new world of IR.

Key Contacts