ACTU President Ged Kearney will today call for closer engagement between unions and business over the economic challenges facing Australia, and for the business lobby to overcome its opposition to reforms in the national interest.
Speaking at a symposium on The Accord 30 Years On in Sydney this afternoon, Ms Kearney will propose the establishment of tripartite industry councils where unions, employers, government and wealth managers like superannuation funds can identify problems and develop solutions.
While ruling out a return to the Prices and Incomes Accord of the early-1980s, she says business and unions can engage more closely "in the spirit" of that process to develop a sustainable base for Australia's economy beyond the mining boom.
"We need tripartite dialogue and agreement in all major sectors of the economy with unions and employers talking to each other and working through the issues, with government at the table as necessary," Ms Kearney says.
"The business community – and the Coalition – must get over the attitude of looking at every significant national reform proposal through the filter of their own self-interest. It needs to constructively engage rather than blocking at every step.
"These agreements must take place at a sectoral or industry level because in today's diverse Australian economy a one-size-fits-all approach is no longer appropriate for sectors as difference as resources, auto manufacturing and financial services.
"For these types of tripartite industry agreements to work, all sides need to have respect for and trust in each other.
"The scope of discussions must include a mature debate about tax reform, investment, skills and training, not just a narrow focus on a capricious notion of wage restraint. Megaphone negotiations and chest-beating through the media will not deliver."
Ged Kearney address on 'The Relevance of the Accord for Unions Today'
2.45pm TODAY, Macquarie University Seminar Room, Level 3, 10 Spring Street, Sydney
Ben Ruse ph 0409 510 879