International Collective Bargaining Experts Explore Future System Reform

Multiple negative economic and social consequences have emerged across Anglophone industrial countries from the retrenchment of collective bargaining systems, including slowing wages growth, rising insecure work, inequality, and declining productivity and growth - bringing urgency to proposals for collective bargaining reform.

On 10 February, Centre for Future Work hosted an exciting timely panel discussion between international collective bargaining experts titled “Beyond the Enterprise: Building Sectoral Collective Bargaining Systems in the Anglophone World”. The panel, delivered for the Association of Industrial Relations Academics of Australia and New Zealand (AIRAANZ) 2022 Conference, explored proposals across Australia, New Zealand, Britain and the US for widening bargaining scope to the multi-employer, industry-wide, or occupational level. Panelists and their presentation links are below:

  • David Madland, Senior Fellow with Center for American Progress and Senior Adviser for the American Worker Project presented on lessons from the US and Britain on strengthening unions and broad-based bargaining proposals. There is a summary of David’s presentation available here.
  • Craig Renney, Director of Policy and Economist with the New Zealand Council of Trade Unions presented on NZ’s ambitious plan to implement sectoral bargaining through Fair Pay Agreements. Craig explained how FPAs can be initiated, bargained and agreed upon. Slides for Craig’s presentation are available here.
  • Alison Pennington, Senior Economist with Centre for Future Work presented a new sectoral bargaining system design for Australia. The dual-tiered model proposed combines both a revitalised Awards system and multi-employer bargaining. Alison proposed traditional bargaining be re-integrated into Awards, with coverage, scope and minimum wage rates redrawn and refreshed. Her presentation is available here.
  • Emma Cannen, Nation Research Coordinator with the United Workers Union presented on the bargaining challenges experienced in Australia’s highly fragmented, insecure, feminised care services, and why sector bargaining with stronger regulation and accountability is needed. Emma’s presentation can be viewed here.

Jim Stanford, Economist and Director at Centre for Future Work chaired the panel.

The AIRAANZ panel follows release of the 13-article Special Issue “Global Lessons for Stronger Collective Bargaining Systems” prepared by academic researchers and trade unionists from five countries for the peer-reviewed journal Labour and Industry. The Issue co-edited by Alison Pennington and Jim Stanford adopts a multi-dimensional approach to collective bargaining revitalisation, investigating the role of bargaining in skills and education, unemployment insurance and other social insurance policies, and industry policy – in addition to specific industrial relations matters.

The final published versions of all articles in the Special Issue are available through Labour and Industry, or through your local library. All commentaries in the Issue freely accessible until end-March 2022.


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