Uncompetitive wage rates – whether imposed by modern awards, for instance after-school wage rates for a country hardware store, or imposed by muscle-in unions and hapless employers in the greenfields of the recent mining boom – cause unemployment, or send jobs overseas, as with the processing of Browse gas on a remote floating plant to avoid high Australian wages.
Modern awards are centrally imposed wage terms divorced from any dispute or settlement between employer and employee. In their pervasiveness they continue the antiquated award system. To be really modern the awards should only apply if the parties want them. Greenfields agreements now involve negotiations with unions before even the first worker has appeared on site. However, the arriving workers should be allowed to decide how they will deal with the greenfields conditions offered them. If these changes were made, two significant obstacles to employment or to competitive wage rates would be removed. Read more