Bargaining periods

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How is the bargaining process started?

Unions, employees or employers wishing to take industrial action in pursuit of a new collective agreement must first notify the Australian Industrial Relations Commission (AIRC) that they are starting the bargaining process. This is known as initiating a bargaining period.

How is a bargaining period initiated?

A bargaining period may be initiated by a union, a single employee or an employer by giving written notice to the other side in the negotiations and to the AIRC.

An individual employee initiating a bargaining period on their own behalf, or on behalf of other employees, must also notify all the other employees who would be covered by the proposed agreement. If the employee does not want to have their identity disclosed to the employer, they may appoint another person to initiate the bargaining period on their behalf. This person is known as the bargaining agent. While the agent need not disclose the identity of the employee to the employer, the agent must include the name of the employee in an attachment to the AIRC. The AIRC must not disclose the identity of the person who has appointed a bargaining agent.

A bargaining period begins seven days after the notice has been given.

What happens if a bargaining period is suspended or terminated?

If the AIRC suspends or terminates a bargaining period, any industrial action taken is no longer protected. The AIRC is required to suspend or terminate a bargaining period if any of a number of circumstances exist, including:

What is pattern bargaining?

Pattern bargaining is where a union seeks common wages or conditions of employment for two or more proposed collective agreements.

This does not include terms or conditions that have been determined as national standards by the AIRC or where the union is genuinely trying to reach agreements that take into account the individual circumstances of the businesses concerned.