Multi-employer bargaining turns back clock

The Minerals Council of Australia strongly opposes any return to multi-employer bargaining in the mining industry.

Multi-employer bargaining would shoehorn diverse employers and employees into one-size-fits-all agreements, and enable unions to shut down whole industries – or large segments – with protected industrial action over matters not relevant to the performance of individual operations.

Compelling bargaining across mining operations will not foster greater cooperation, increase productivity, boost wages and create jobs.

Mining employers and employees already bargain successfully at the enterprise level for above-award wages and conditions.

The sustained increase in the number of highly paid, highly skilled and secure mining jobs over the past 20 years (from 87,800 to 277,600 direct employees) shows that enterprise bargaining is neither broken in the mining industry nor in need of radical surgery.

Nor can it be argued that wages growth has lagged behind productivity growth in mining.

ABS data reveal that while labour productivity in mining declined by 8 per cent between 2000-01 and 2020-21, average weekly earnings for full-time workers grew by 99 per cent.

Fifty nine per cent of mining workers are covered by individual agreements on terms and conditions above enterprise agreements. Only one per cent are dependent on awards for their wages and conditions.

The policy opportunity for high-paying industries like mining is to make enterprise bargaining more attractive by improving its capacity to support real wages growth through productivity gains.

In turn, this will help attract international investment in mining, minerals processing and related manufacturing, which is crucial to realising the government’s ambition of a ‘future made in Australia’.

The mining industry pays the highest average wages ($144,000 a year, compared to $95,000 across all industries) and the vast majority of mining workers are full-time (96 per cent) and permanent (88 per cent).

Mining is Australia’s largest export industry, generating a record $413 billion in exports in 2021-22. The industry paid $43.2 billion in tax and royalty payments in 2020-21 and accounted for 30 per cent of all company tax paid that year.

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