New legislation empowers union delegates in Australia

A new analysis of Australia’s Closing Loopholes Act asserts that bolstering union delegate rights enhances workplace collaboration and productivity.
By: | July 2, 2024

New legislation in Australia will strengthen the rights of volunteer union delegates, potentially leading to a more cooperative work environment, according to a report by the Centre for Future Work’s Carmichael Centre.

The analysis, titled Employee Voice and New Rights for Workplace Union Delegates, was released in conjunction with the federal government’s Closing Loopholes Act and posits that the new legislation could benefit both employees and employers.

The new legislation seeks to grant union delegates the right to contact employees, accessibility to the workplace and workplace facilities, and paid time for union training during working hours.

The centre’s research, led by Professor David Peetz of the Centre for Future Work, underscored that employees desire effective cooperation between their unions and employers. “Those who claim that guaranteeing the rights of union delegates must lead to greater conflict are dead wrong,” remarked Professor Peetz, who authored the analysis. “Well-trained delegates are best placed to represent employees. They don’t acquiesce, but they do cooperate. After all, they know it’s in employees’ interests for workplace productivity to rise.”

READ MORE: Gender norms skewing workplace family-friendly policies in Australia

Moreover, the report identified that robust representation and consultation can mitigate resistance to productivity-enhancing technologies, such as AI, among employees. Historically, volunteer union delegates have faced obstacles hindering their ability to advocate effectively within workplaces. The new rights granted to them are intended to rectify this issue, ensuring a more equitable representation of employee voices.

However, the report cautioned that unions must utilise the new rights judiciously, particularly concerning paid training leave. “If they use it just to emphasise getting more ‘bums on seats’ in classrooms, ahead of taking a holistic approach to education, they won’t get anything new out of it,” he concluded.

For more news and analysis on the latest HR and workforce trends in Asia, subscribe to HRM Asia and be part of the region’s largest HR community!