Collective bargaining and agreement-making has been an established part of Australia’s arbitral model of industrial relations since its inception. Although the significance of bargaining and agreement-making has varied considerably over the course of the twentieth century and across different sectors, it nonetheless remained a secondary component of the formal system of wage determination until the 1980s. From the mid-1980s, however, new wage-fixing principles and legislative changes have paved the way for enterprise bargaining as the primary mechanism through which wages and conditions of employment have been determined, evolving towards a predominance of enterprise-level collective agreements. The aim of this paper is to describe the major institutional reforms intended to promote enterprise bargaining and to review the major trends in agreement-making over the course of the last twenty years in particular. The data show that, while enterprise-level agreement-making has become an entrenched feature of the Australian system, it is not at all clear that it has involved the spread of collective bargaining as the term is normally understood.

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