What is the most appropriate system to provide statutory recognition and protection of collective bargaining rights in the Australian context?  This research report by the Australian Institute of Employment Rights (AIER) provides an overview of systems of collective bargaining and union recognition in seven industrialised countries, and identifies alternative options that might be available for consideration in Australia.

The WorkChoices legislation has fundamentally altered the balance between rights of employers and working people in Australia. WorkChoices is the most radical overhaul of the Australian system of industrial relations in more than 100 years. More than this, it is the most radical overhaul of labour market regulation anywhere in the industrialised world.

Unions have been stripped of many of the protections which allowed them to provide Australian working people with the opportunity to choose union representation at the workplace and as their representative in collective bargaining.

The purpose of this Research Report is to address the question, ‘What statutory arrangement would be required to once again provide working people with the freedom to choose union representation, for unions to gain recognition where workers choose unions and to oblige employers to productively engage in collective bargaining with unions.’

The authors analyse how WorkChoices undermines the ability of working people to choose union representation and for unions to gain recognition as the representative organisation for working people. It reviews the experience of seven industrialised economies and how these issues are dealt, the strengths and weaknesses of each system, and what lessons might be learnt. The authors explore a number of possible paths for renewing the collective bargaining and union recognition rights: a reform of the arbitral system of union recognition and bargaining, the creation of a certification system built on the experiences of North America, or a hybrid model which seeks to draw ion the experience of the United Kingdom and New Zealand where elements of both European and North American models have been used to create a system of union recognition.

This authoritative review provides an insightful view of what could be done and offers useful suggestions for possible paths to re-building collective bargaining and union recognition.

Download the report.