The Productivity Commission’s review of the workplace relations framework kicks off with initial submissions due Friday, 13 March 2015.

Expect to see the bargaining framework as a central feature of submissions, particularly by employer bodies, and a focus of the Commission’s review.

With a final report due in November this year, the inquiry will occur amidst one of the bigger years in the enterprise bargaining cycle.

As Mathew Dunckley notes in his 9 January AFR article “Call to keep lid on wage claims” many high-profile and large employers are due for bargaining in 2015. Add to this list employers in the stevedoring and airline industries together with the on-going offshore vessel operator negotiations.

When it comes to bargaining, the key issue is whether the power balance in bargaining between employers and unions is right and, if not, how to calibrate it.

In turn, three key issues arise:

  • the subject matter of negotiations and whether it should extend beyond the employer and employee relationship (as is the case now);
  • the ‘levers and pulleys’ for the taking and ending of protected industrial action; and
  • the capacity of employers to bargain directly with employees.

These issues will be profiled through bargaining campaigns this year. To the third point, expect to see more employers putting deals directly to employees for their approval.

In a ‘big bargaining year’, the Commission will have a backdrop of great case study material with currency.