As we usher in the Chinese “Year of the Horse” it is a pretty safe prediction that whatever else happens in Human Resources and Employee Relations during 2014 it will be the “Year of the Enterprise Agreement”.
In 2009 in the dying stages of the Howard Governments “Workchoices” legislation nearly every major employer and employer group across a range of industries moved to put collective agreements in place prior to the new requirements of the Labour Government’s Fair Work Act (FWA).
The maximum 5 year term of what were mostly non- union Collective agreements means there are literally thousands of these agreements which expire during 2014 and which will need to be renewed or replaced under the existing Labour initiated legislation.
It will be interesting to see how HR professionals and line managers, who may have had little or no exposure to Union officials in recent years, will comply with the FWA requirement to consult with default bargaining agents (Unions) or those nominated by the workforce. Of course there will be some companies and industries where unions have retained a foothold and where HR professionals and industry associations will be well prepared for discussions but they will still have to negotiate the new agreements under the labour Governments FWA which remains unchanged by the Liberals.
On the flipside the reality is that the Union movement does not have the resources or member support to get involved in the thousands of agreements that will be due for replacement this year. For them it will be a matter of tackling the big fish and “engaging” in those sectors where they have traditionally had most influence.