The Australian Attorney General recently observed that there were ‘no more bosses and no more unions’ but rather Australians working together to adjust and adapt during these unprecedented times caused by the coronavirus (COVID-19).
Moving beyond the adversarial nature of workplace relations is to be welcomed, but we need to keep the ‘bosses and unions’, perhaps better described as our ‘business leaders and union leaders’, seated at the table (albeit via video conference for now).
Business leaders and union leaders will need to continue in this spirit of cooperation as they work on Australia’s economic recovery plan because the role of the workforce is going to be critical.
As a part of our recovery, Australia has the potential to refocus on domestic production and supporting our local businesses. That’s going to require a shift in mindset for all of us.
Australia pays high minimum wages by international standards and this has seen lower wage countries compete more effectively in some sectors of the global economy, including manufacturing.
We do not want to compete on the basis of low minimum wages and we do not want our position as a high wage economy to change when the labour market adjusts to the challenges we face. This means:
If our business, union and political leaders can continue to work together collaboratively as we consider the settings needed to shape and build our recovery, there is significant cause for optimism.
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