LESS THAN THEY BARGAINED FOR: UNION BARGAINING FEES IN CERTIFIED AGREEMENTS- A MATTER OF LAW, POLITICS OR PUBLIC POLICY?

GUY DONOVAN

Abstract


[The High Court of Australia’s decision in Electrolux No 3, combined with the Australian government’s changes to workplace relations law, has en- sured that unions are prohibited from charging bargaining fees. The gov- ernment claimed to have prohibited the fees on the basis that they offend the principle of “freedom of association”. However, the government failed to consider other policy considerations and considerable international precedents that suggest if bargaining fees are limited to an amount cover- ing bargaining services alone, they provide unions with a beneficial source of financial security, whilst also overcoming the free-rider problem and maintaining respect for the concept of voluntary unionism. Therefore, it is perhaps incorrect to suggest that the prohibition of bargaining fees was prescribed by the government on the basis of some overriding concern for the freedom of association. Rather it seems more realistic to suggest that freedom of association was the guise under which the government was able to further marginalise the role of unions in industrial relations in or- der to promote its own ideological and economic agenda.] 


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DOI: https://doi.org/10.21153/dlr2005vol10no2art285

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