An enterprise agreement is a legally binding document that outlines the terms and conditions of employment between an employer and their employees. These agreements are commonly used in Australia, and they have a rich history that spans more than two decades.
The introduction of enterprise agreements into the Australian industrial relations landscape can be traced back to the early 1990s. At that time, the Australian government under the leadership of Prime Minister Paul Keating was seeking to modernize the country`s industrial relations system. One of the key reforms was the introduction of enterprise bargaining, which allowed employers and employees to negotiate their own working conditions.
The first enterprise agreements were known as “enterprise bargaining agreements” (EBAs), and they were primarily used in the manufacturing and mining sectors. These agreements were negotiated between unions and employers on behalf of employees, and they covered a range of employment conditions, including wages, hours of work, and leave entitlements.
Over time, the use of EBAs expanded to other industries, and they became an important part of the Australian industrial relations system. In 2009, the government introduced the Fair Work Act, which replaced the previous industrial relations legislation and included provisions for enterprise agreements.
Under the Fair Work Act, enterprise agreements are negotiated between employers and employees, either directly or through their representatives. These agreements must be approved by the Fair Work Commission before they can come into effect.
Enterprise agreements have been the subject of much debate over the years, with critics arguing that they have led to a fragmentation of the industrial relations system. However, proponents of enterprise bargaining believe that it gives employers and employees the flexibility to negotiate agreements that meet their specific needs.
Today, enterprise agreements continue to be an important part of the Australian industrial relations landscape, with thousands of agreements in place across a wide range of industries. As the nature of work continues to evolve, it is likely that enterprise agreements will remain an important tool for ensuring fair and flexible employment conditions.