Treasurer Jim Chalmers reports discussions of union pressure for multi-employer wage deals

The government has left the door open to a call for multi-employer wage deals despite a major pushback by big business.

Treasurer Jim Chalmers said the idea would be ‘discovered’ at the next Jobs and Skills Summit as unions, business and government seek solutions to what they say is a ‘broken’ system .

“I think there’s a broad consensus among all the different stakeholders that corporate bargaining doesn’t work,” Dr Chalmers told Sky News.

“I think the business negotiation is broken. If there are ways to fix the problem, in order to get this sustainable wage growth, we should look at it.

“And obviously in this particular part of the summit … the task (of Employment Minister Tony Burke) will be to see where there is perhaps common ground in certain industries, around multi-employer bargaining and to see if we can move forward together on this face.”

Multi-employer bargaining would allow unions to reach agreements to cover more than one employer in an industry rather than negotiating separate company agreements.

On Sunday, the head of the Business Council of Australia, Jennifer Westacott, reiterated her concern over the proposal, wondering if it could cause more problems than it solved.

“My concern is that at an industry level, we’re trying to solve one problem and end up with a lot more,” she told the ABC.

She raised concerns about industry-wide strikes and the impact of multi-employer agreements on small businesses as reasons for taking a break.

Later this week, the government will hold its long-awaited jobs and skills summit with unions, employers and other stakeholders coming together to discuss solutions to job shortages and stagnating wages.

Dr Chalmers said he was not looking for ‘unanimity’, but stressed there was common ground to be found.

ACTU Secretary Sally McManus and Ms Westacott said they wanted Australians to be paid more, an increase in the cap on migration and an improved skills sector.

However, the Treasurer said any increase in the migration cap cannot come at the expense of upskilling Australians.

“We can’t fall into the trap of saying migration is a substitute for training, we need to act sensibly on both fronts,” Dr Chalmers said.

Originally published as Radical pay plan to be ‘unveiled’ at upcoming jobs summit, treasurer says