Industrial cooperation was on show in the Canberra talkfest. But not all NSW politicians have caught on.
The sight of employer groups and unions talking side-by-side about common goals is a positive sign for the Australian job market, said PSA/CPSU NSW General Secretary Stewart Little.
Convened by the new Albanese Federal Government, the Jobs and Skills Summit made progress towards finding solutions to Australia’s wage crisis, after a decade of low wages and real wage cuts for workers.
Since the summit met, unions and employer groups have differed over issues such as industry-wide bargaining and the definition of a small business. However, the industrial-relations inertia of the previous nine years seems to have stopped.
“Wage growth is a critical issue for our country,” said the Secretary of the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU), Sally McManus. “There has been some great progress made over the last two days, but the hard work begins now.
“We are also pleased that the issues of gender equity and the removal of structural barriers for women, First Nation’s people, people with disabilities and other marginalised groups have led discussions.”
The ACTU came to the summit with the goal of modernising the bargaining system, investing in skills and training, pushing for better opportunities for women, and ending exploitation and underpayment of migrant workers.
“After nearly a decade of industrial friction, the summit showed what is possible when a government brings workers and employers together to find a way forward,” said Mr Little. “The sight of employers and unions together was heartening.
“It is a pity, though, that at the same time NSW Treasurer Matt Kean was firing the opening shots in what looks like an anti-union election campaign.”
Federal Opposition Leader, Peter Dutton, was notably absent from the summit. The Liberal Party Leader instead preferred to issue negative media statements about union leaders who attended the event.
However, the same union leaders he publicly demonised were photographed with leaders of employer groups such as the Business Council of Australia and the Council of Small Business Organisations Australia.