Qantas chairman Richard Goyder has said the proposed reintroduction of multi-employer bargaining won’t work because it ignores how different companies in an industry have different needs.
Speaking at the airline’s AGM, Goyder argued it would have a “massive” impact on productivity, growth and the ability to pay staff more.
“We’re concerned that lowering the bar for compulsory arbitration and enforcing multi-employer bargaining would effectively lead to centralised wage setting,” he said.
The legislation is expected to eventually travel through the senate by 1 December. Significantly, the TWU, aviation’s most powerful union, has already backed the move.
It’s thought the new laws would focus on low-paid industries and will crucially include the potential for workers to strike on behalf of those employed at other businesses.
Goyder, however added it was welcome that ministers seem willing to make concessions and asked for time to be taken for its consequences to be “genuinely debated”.
It comes after chief executive Alan Joyce said multi-employer bargaining would have made it impossible for a business such as Jetstar to launch, adding new rules could “take us back to the 80s”.
Joyce said Jetstar “changed the aviation market” by introducing efficiencies that allowed for prices as low as $35.
“We did set up Jetstar with the aim of democratising air travel and allowing millions of people to travel for the first time,” he said.
“If there was multi-employer bargaining at the time, I’m not sure that would have happened, and a lot of other things wouldn’t have happened.”
It follows the Federal Court ruling last year that Qantas was wrong to outsource 2,000 ground handling roles. The TWU argued it meant employees were worse off because they were without the long-time enterprise agreements negotiated with Qantas.
The union’s national secretary, Michael Kaine, later told The Australian that multi-employer bargaining must include the potential for all workers to strike. Otherwise, companies will knock back demands for better working terms.
“It’s not about an uncontrolled upward spiral of wages and conditions,” he said.
“It’s about saving the economy from complete fragmentation where workers have no power (and) where the companies that engage them have no commercial power to dictate their future.
“That’s not good for economic growth. It’s certainly not good for making sure workers are getting a share of the economy.”