Insecure Work in Australia Fact #6: Coverage by an Enterprise Agreement

One important instrument providing some protection and stability in work is coverage by an enterprise agreement. Enterprise bargaining agreements (EBAs) set out wages and entitlements, and specify processes for representation and dispute settlement. However, the proportion of Australian workers covered by an EBA has declined significantly in recent years: in fact, this is one of the most dramatic indicators of the growing precarity of modern work. The decline in EBA coverage has been concentrated in private sector workplaces; many employers have terminated EBAs, or failed to renew them,[1] and unions have been unable to defend EBA coverage and genuine collective bargaining.

Private Sector Employees Covered by Current EBAs

Source: Centre for Future Work calculations from Dept. of Jobs and Small Business, “Trends in Federal Enterprise Bargaining,” and ABS Catalogues 6202.0 and 6291.0.55.003.

In just five years, the number of private sector workers covered by a current EBA has plunged 30 per cent: from 1.86 million in 2012 (19 per cent of all private sector employment) to 1.31 million in 2017 (just 12 per cent of private sector employment). EBA coverage in the public sector has also declined, but more gradually, in the face of stonewalling and wage freezes imposed by some governments (including the Commonwealth), and the outsourcing of many public sector jobs. The erosion of EBAs has contributed to an increase in the share of workers whose wages and conditions are now determined by the minimum conditions of modern awards.

Full Report

[1] In most cases a non-renewed EBA will not provide for wage increases, although some other provisions of the agreement may remain in effect.

CFW, housed within the Australia Institute, conducts and publishes progressive economic research on work, employment, and labour markets. https://www.futurework

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