By CELA on 3 Jun, 2024

Multi-employer bargaining and how it relates to the Award - infographic

Multi-employer bargaining explained - the details

Multi-Employer Bargaining is a process where employers and employees collaborate to create a unified workplace agreement. This agreement, which outlines wages and conditions for all staff across multiple services, helps overcome the common challenges faced by community-managed services, such as time constraints, high costs, and limited access to expertise. 

Multi-employer bargaining agreements already exist in the early childhood sector and independent school sector. These agreements have been successful in increasing wages for educators and teachers above minimum Award rates, as well as reducing complexity for providers.  

In November 2022, new laws were enacted to facilitate the creation of multi-employer agreements for government-funded sectors like ECEC. These new laws also made it easier for the government to be involved in the negotiation process.

Why it's important to have the government involved

Having the government at the table as the primary funder of the sector means we have the chance to improve wages and conditions without increasing costs to families.   

The role of CELA in multi-employer bargaining for the sector

Over the past two years, CELA has invested in our most ambitious advocacy campaign to date. We recognised the Federal Government’s appetite for major wage reform and knew that community and small providers had to be represented in the process. 

The results of our work have meant ministers and parliamentarians understand the value of community early education services, and have agreed to provide funding towards a wage increase.

As a trusted and experienced advocate for the early childhood sector, CELA is now acting as an employer bargaining representative in this process. This ensures community-managed and small providers have a voice at the table in this historic process.  

CELA is currently supporting providers to participate in two multi-employer bargaining processes under new Supported Bargaining Laws.  

The National Long Day Care Multi-Employer Agreement aims to deliver funded professional wages to federally funded long day care services. 

Long day care services can find out more by completing the expression of interest (EOI) form here:

National LDC EOI 

The NSW Community Preschools Multi-Employer Agreement aims to extend these professional wages to NSW State Government funded standalone preschools.

NSW preschools can find out more by completing the expression of interest (eoi) form here:  

NSW Preschools EOI


The difference between a workplace agreement via multi-employer bargaining and the Award

Awards set the minimum safety net wages and conditions for employees across specific industries. Awards are set by the Fair Work Commission, and wages are increased each year through the Minimum Wage Review. Most awards cover a whole industry or occupation. Examples are ‘retail industry’ or ‘legal services'.
 

Most employees working in the early childhood sector are covered by the Children’s Services Award 2010 or the Educational Services (Teachers) Award 2020. 


Workplace agreements are directly negotiated between employers and employees to set the wages and conditions that apply at an ‘enterprise’ or workplace level, rather than for an entire sector. Workplace agreements give employers and employees a direct say in the wages and conditions that apply to them and are how employers may offer wages and conditions that are better than the minimum Award safety net.    

Workplace agreements can be made by single employers (enterprise agreements) or with more than one employer (multi-employer agreements).  

How the minimum wage affects workplace agreements

The minimum wage is set each year by the Fair Work Commission and applies to Awards.  

The Annual Minimum Wage Review is a process where the Fair Work Commission sets a percentage increase that applies to all wage rates contained in Awards. In general, the same percentage increase applies to all Awards, regardless of industry or sector. The Fair Work Commission can mandate any wage increase it deems appropriate. This decision is based on submissions from industry, unions, and the government, along with economic evidence, and must align with the Fair Work Act. It may also decide not to order an increase.  

In most years, the minimum wage decision is handed down in the first week of June and applies from the first pay period on or after 1 July. The 2024 Minimum Wage decision was handed down on 3 June 2024, with an increase of 3.75 per cent announced, effective from 1 July 2024.  

Employers who employ staff under Awards must pass on the increase to all employees. Since the minimum wage represents a safety net for wages in Australia, no employee can be paid less than the Award rates that apply to their industry or sector.  

Employees employed on workplace agreements, including multi-employer agreements, are not affected by minimum wage increases, unless such an increase means their pay rates fall below those in their relevant Award.  

About CELA

Community Early Learning Australia is a not for profit organisation with a focus on amplifying the value of early learning for every child across Australia - representing our members and uniting our sector as a force for quality education and care.

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