Enterprise bargaining is only successful when negotiations focus on employees’ wages and conditions rather than venturing into how companies should be run, Qantas IR manager Peter Smith told a Workforce conference in Melbourne last week.

Telling the audience that ‘commercial decisions such as whether to use labour hire workers are best left to employers’, Smith’s comments echo those of Qantas CEO Alan Joyce who said the company’s lockout of employees was the only option available under the Fair Work Act.

Smith said existing legislation ‘contemplates unions taking protected industrial action in pursuit of their enterprise bargaining claims, including in relation to what were previously not permitted matters such as site rates and union rights matters’.

On 8 August Fair Work Australia handed down a much anticipated workplace determination binding on Qantas, the Transport Workers Union and approximately 4,000 ground staff to end the public protracted dispute.

In a positive outcome from that determination, Fair Work Australia rejected the TWU’s claim that the rates and conditions of the determination should also apply to contractors and labour hire workers engaged by the company.

As AMMA has regularly stated, the opening up of allowable matters under Fair Work Act agreements has seen a swift return to the union rights agendas of the 1970s and ’80s.

This must now be curtailed in the national interest. Employers deserve an agreement making system that does not encourage unions and employees to take protected industrial which serve only to interfere with managerial prerogative and shore up union power.

As stated by Peter Smith from Qantas in his address, bargaining is most successful when focused on wages and conditions, rather than opening a Pandora’s Box of matters beyond the employment relationship.

This article was provided by AMMA’s Policy team, contactable on (02) 9211 4566.