August 2022

June 2022

Enterprise Bargaining System no Longer Fit for Purpose

by Alison Pennington

The collapse in agreement coverage under Australia’s enterprise bargaining system in Australia in recent years, particularly in the private sector, has focused attention on the need for reforms that will give more workers the effective ability to collectively negotiate better wages and conditions. In the private sector, coverage by a current enterprise agreement has fallen by half since 2013: to below 11% of all workers by March 2021. No wonder wages are lagging so far behind inflation.

March 2022

February 2022

Josh Frydenberg’s ‘Great Reshuffle’ another sign Coalition is out of touch with reality

by Alison Pennington in The New Daily

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg’s recent declaration – that wage-restrained workers need simply participate in the so-called “Great Reshuffle” to find better-paid jobs – underscores just how disconnected the federal government is from the harsh realities facing many Australian workers. With shades of former treasurer Joe Hockey advising youth priced out of housing to “get a good job that pays good

November 2021

August 2021

Fair Pay Agreements: How Workers in NZ Are Getting Their Share

by Alison Pennington

Across the ditch, the Ardern government in New Zealand is undertaking an ambitious and multi-dimensional effort to address low wages, inequality, and poor job quality. NZ unions have just won the introduction of Fair Pay Agreements, planned for implementation in 2022. FPAs will allow working people to bargain collectively across sectors and start to correct the income and power imbalance between workers and employers.

June 2021

Why is Job Quality Worsening?

by Alison Pennington

Over time, insecure work has become more prevalent in the Australian economy. Key drivers of worsening job quality include: decades of economic policies which constructed unemployment “buffers”; insufficient paid work available for all who need it; reductions in the level of unemployment benefits to below-poverty levels, collapse in collective bargaining coverage, and failure to regulate insecure work.

April 2021

March 2021

January 2021

Migrant Workers Abandoned in the COVID Recovery

by Alison Pennington

COVID continues to sweep Europe and the US, while Australia celebrates near-elimination of community transmission. But Australia’s public health success has not come without significant economic and social hardship for large sections of our community – especially migrant workers. Thousands of migrant workers were pulled off the job to stop the spread of COVID-19, and excluded from key government income support programs including JobSeeker and JobKeeper. Temporary migrant workers are still left without access to Medicare.

December 2020

IR Bill Will Cut Wages & Accelerate Precarity

by Alison Pennington in Jacobin

The Morrison government has proposed sweeping changes to labour laws that will expand unilateral employer power to cut wages and freely deploy casual labour. Together, the Coalition’s proposed changes will accelerate the incidence of insecure work, undermine genuine collective bargaining, and suppress wages growth. Impacts will be felt across the entire workforce – casual and permanent workers alike.

A Women’s Agenda for COVID-Era Reconstruction

by Alison Pennington

Women have been uniquely and disproportionately impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic and resulting recession: losing more jobs and hours, shouldering a higher unpaid caring work burden, and undertaking essential and frontlines jobs. Without targeted action to rebuild women’s jobs and ease caring demands, decades of collective advances toward decent paid work could be eroded.

November 2020

Working from home, once a novelty, is now wearing thin

Lockdowns in Victoria have made job polarisations starker than in other states. Entire layers of workers, previously interacting in the flows of the daily commute, the morning coffee, dropping kids off at school, were suddenly pulled apart and isolated from each other. Connected only by the occasional masked ‘hello’ on the street. Australians share the

October 2020

August 2020

Why TAFE is critical to economic recovery

featuring Ebony Bennett and Alison Pennington

The Morrison government has said it will increase investment in skills and training if the states and territories sign up to an overhaul of the Vocational Education and Training sector. ACTU President Michele O’Neil, Correna Haythorpe, federal president of the AEU and Alison Pennington, senior economist at the Centre for Future Work at the Australia

July 2020

June 2020

Austerity Threatens Women’s Access to Paid Work

by Alison Pennington in The New Daily

Women have suffered the worst labour market impacts since the shutdowns. Gender-unequal impacts have been due to women’s greater exposure to customer-facing industries shut down first by public health orders, higher employment intensity in insecure and part-time positions, and an increased caring burden unmet by the state. But instead of providing countervailing support, the federal government is accelerating women’s work crisis.

Repairing Universities & Skills Key to Meeting COVID-Era Challenges

by Alison Pennington

Training must play a vital role in reorienting the economy after the pandemic, supporting workers training for new jobs including millions of young people entering a depressed labour market without concrete pathways to work. But what kind of jobs will we be doing in 2040? And how prepared is Australia’s skills system (and universities specifically) to play this important role now?

Unleashing a National Reconstruction Plan Fit for Our Era

by Alison Pennington in Newcastle Herald

Our nation is confronting the most significant economic challenge in nearly a century. Australia’s own experience of long-term, sustained public investment during post-war reconstruction shows direct tools of government planning and investment will be essential to our recovery today. Yet Scott Morrison continues to pretend his hands are tied: “if there’s no business, there’s no jobs, there’s no income, there’s nothing.”

May 2020

Australia Needs Universal Paid Sick Leave To Get Through the Pandemic

by Alison Pennington

Chief Medical Officer Brendan Murphy recently issued a directive that going to work with the ‘sniffles’ is ‘off the agenda for every Australian in the foreseeable future.’ But with millions of workers without access to paid sick leave, government plans to lift restrictions on economic activity could risk dangerous and costly outbreaks. 

Working From Home: tracky dacks and keystroke surveillance

featuring Ebony Bennett and Alison Pennington

Working from home has great potential to cushion the economic blow of the pandemic: allowing many to keep working and earning an income. But there are also many challenges and risks associated with this major shift in work patterns. So to unpack the implications of everything from Orwellian surveillance programs to the joys of working

September 2019

Paid Parental Leave for Fathers Advances Parental Equality

by Alison Pennington in Medium

Rising pressure on individuals and families to meet their caring needs is the “human face” of decline in workplace protections and bargaining power that has gathered pace since 2013. Meanwhile, the need for fathers and male spouses to take on more caring and household labour is routinely discussed in the public domain. But how have Australia’s work/care policies worked to support a redistribution of caring and household labour to males and fathers?

May 2019

Where To Now for Union Campaign? Workplace Express

The unexpected results of the 2019 Commonwealth election have sparked many commentaries regarding what happened, and why. This article, reprinted with permission from Workplace Express, considers the role of the major #ChangeTheRules campaign mobilised by Australian unions in the lead-up to the election – and ponders the movement’s next steps in the continuing debate over labour market policies and industrial relations. It cites both our Economist Alison Pennington, and our Director Jim Stanford, as well as our previous research on the erosion of collective bargaining in Australia.

December 2018

Are States Filling the Democratic Void?

by Alison Pennington in New Matilda

The recent Victorian election results showed Australian voters want governments to play a pro-active role delivering public services, infrastructure, improved labour standards, and sustainability. They showed that in a time of deep cynicism with federal politics, States (and Territories) can play an important role filling the democratic void left by dysfunction and policy paralysis at

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