5 obligations of bargaining representatives

By Charles Power on April 30th, 2014
  1. Industrial Instruments
  2. Enterprise Agreements


[Ed Note: As you may know, a bargaining representative is a person who is directly involved in the process of bargaining for an enterprise agreement.

Who is a bargaining representative?

When an employer is making an enterprise agreement, the employer can be its own bargaining representative. Employees may elect themselves or choose other parties to be their bargaining representatives.

The union will automatically represent an employee who is a union member unless they revoke the status of the union as their representation in writing, or they appoint another representative in writing.

Bargaining representatives must bargain in good faith. This means meeting five obligations. Charles Power will tell you what they are below.]

5 Obligations of Bargaining Representatives

Bargaining representatives attract the following obligations to bargain in good faith:

Obligation 1: To meet at reasonable times about the agreement and to participate in those meetings. ‘Participate’ in this context means to share information and views, and to be willing to discuss the things that the bargaining representatives want in the agreement.

Obligation 2: To disclose relevant information (other than confidential or commercially sensitive information) in a timely manner. For example, if the employer wants to reduce shift allowances based on financial need, it will have to back up its claim with financial records.
Obligation 3: To respond to proposals made by other bargaining representatives for the agreement in a timely manner.

Obligation 4: To genuinely consider the proposals of other bargaining representatives for the agreement, and explain their position in relation to those proposals.
Obligation 5: Not to engage in capricious or unfair conduct that undermines freedom of association or collective bargaining.
For example:

  • failing to recognise a bargaining representative;
  • preventing an employee bargaining representative from attending meetings or discussing matters relating to the terms of the proposed agreement with fellow employees;
  • victimising an employee because the employee is a bargaining representative; and
  • preventing an employee from appointing a bargaining representative.

Good faith bargaining requirements do not require a bargaining representative to make concessions during bargaining for the agreement, or to enter into an agreement if they do not agree to its terms. And it is not a breach of good faith bargaining requirements to walk away from bargaining when all reasonable efforts to reach agreement have failed.


Charles Power
Employment Law Practical Handbook

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