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Going nuclear: the costs of mid-bargaining termination of enterprise agreements

Industrial relations Collective bargaining Labour rights Australia

This research quantifies the dramatic risks faced by workers whose employers unilaterally terminate enterprise agreements during the course of renegotiations. This aggressive employer strategy, which became common after a precedent-setting 2015 court decision, would be curtailed by new industrial relations legislation proposed by the Commonwealth government.

The paper reviews one dramatic example of this termination threat – dubbed the ‘nuclear option’ by labour law experts (because it ‘blows up’ years of collective bargaining embodied in existing enterprise agreements). Earlier this year, Qantas threatened termination of the EA covering its international cabin crew unless they accepted significant contract concessions.

The paper recommends reforms to the Fair Work Act to limit employers’ ability to apply for unilateral termination during renegotiations. Current legislation in Parliament (the Secure Jobs, Better Pay Bill) would put new restrictions on employers’ ability to terminate EAs during renegotiation.

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