New Approaches

Deputy President Anna Booth

Deputy President Anna Booth presenting at the International Perspectives on Dispute Resolution Conference in Melbourne on 1 November 2017

The New Approaches program is the framework through which the Commission performs its legislated function of promoting cooperative and productive workplace relations and preventing disputes.

New Approaches complements the Commission’s dispute resolution and bargaining functions by providing a formal process to help parties to work together effectively and prevent disputes from occurring. The Commission can deal with a New Approaches application if parties at a workplace or business agree.

The New Approaches program enables the Commission to work with parties to:

  • promote cooperative and productive workplace relations through interest-based approaches to bargaining for enterprise agreements
  • develop new ways of resolving conflict or disputes at the workplace, using interest-based problem solving
  • support the introduction of change, innovation and productivity improvements through new ways of collaborating, outside of the bargaining cycle and before a dispute occurs.

The Commission may provide:

  • training in interest-based bargaining and dispute resolution
  • training and assistance in collaborative workplace change, including training for consultative committees
  • help with enterprise bargaining and the development of joint processes to implement enterprise agreements.

At 30 June 2018, the Commission was facilitating 29 active New Approaches matters.

New Approaches matters can remain open for a significant period, with the Commission providing ongoing support across a range of areas, including training, facilitation of negotiations, and the provision of advice and support to parties.

During 2017–18, Members conducted 12 New Approaches workshops in partnership with national and state and territory law councils and industrial relations societies. The workshops have a practical focus on improving the capacity of participants to bargain effectively and resolve conflict and disputes in the workplace.

The Commission is interested in measuring the impact of New Approaches, to identify the best ways to maximise cooperation and commitment among organisations that participate in the program. Having conducted a workshop in May 2018, in 2018–19 the Commission will work with the New Approaches User Group to design an evaluation methodology. The user group membership consists of a Commission Member and parties such as industrial officers and employer representatives who have participated in the New Approaches process.

Case study—New Approaches in tertiary education

Macquarie University and the National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU) have adopted interest-based bargaining in negotiating their latest enterprise agreement. This is the first time New Approaches has been adopted in the tertiary education sector.

As an independent body, the Commission has been in a position to assist the parties to move beyond positional bargaining, helping them to articulate their interests and the other side’s point of view. Deputy President Booth, who is facilitating bargaining, believes the process will have an ongoing influence on how the university and union interact.

Both sides acknowledge the benefits of this process and the potential outcomes. Professor Stephen Brammer, Executive Dean of the Faculty of Business and Economics at Macquarie University, explained:

it’s fair to say bargaining historically has been a sort of stylized form of trench warfare in which the University and the Union are in opposing trenches and where each construes the objective as getting as many metres of ground beyond the current agreement favourable for their side. The process has enabled us to see common ground and understand each other’s interests.

Dr Alison Barnes, President of the Macquarie University branch of the NTEU, noted:

the key difference has been that, rather than each side locking themselves into an intractable position from which they feel they can’t move, there has been a greater focus on trying to look at each interest and how we might progress those issues in a productive fashion. Interest Based Bargaining has been a very robust process. It hasn’t been conflict free. The process has pushed both sides to use imagination to look and listen to a range of perspectives and to look at issues and concerns in new and novel ways.

In facilitating the process between Macquarie University and the NTEU, Deputy President Booth explained:

In Interest Based Bargaining you don’t begin with a log of claims and the defined positions of either party. You begin from what the shared and competing interests are. Then you generate a range of options or different ways in which those needs can be met and you can choose the best possible way to meet those needs.

Nicole Gower, head of Human Resources at Macquarie University, highlighted the process:

we’ve been much more creative and we’ve come up with options that we wouldn’t have thought about going into the negotiations. That’s really a testament to the collaborative nature of the process.

Lance Dale, Industrial Officer with the New South Wales division of the NTEU, noted that the parties may not necessarily agree on everything, but said:

I’m confident we will reach a very good agreement at the end of the day.

Having formally commenced in October 2017, the parties are continuing to negotiate, with the assistance of Deputy President Booth. They hope to conclude a new enterprise agreement before the end of 2018.

Bargaining representatives from Macquarie University and the National Tertiary Education Union negotiating

Bargaining representatives from Macquarie University and the National Tertiary Education Union negotiating for the replacement to the Macquarie University Academic Staff Enterprise Agreement 2014