Generally the Trade Practices Act encourages businesses to compete against
one another. However, in some instances, the Trade Practices Act allows a
process called collective bargaining, which involves two or more competitors
in an industry to come together and negotiate terms and conditions with a
supplier or customer.
The PRESENTER walks towards a MALE and FEMALE in business attire
sitting at a table.
Thanks for meeting with me.
I’ve got a proposal to put to you.
Well, your contract with your carrier is up for renewal shortly isn’t it?
What say we, er, put on a united front?
Collective bargaining is generally anti-competitive, and for that reason its
generally a breach of the Trade Practices Act. It’s against the law.
But the carrier’s got a monopoly – if we could negotiate from a position of
Hang on. It’s generally against the law. But there are procedures in place that
allow businesses to seek protection from liability under the Trade Practices
Act if the ACCC can be satisfied it’s in the public interest.
And how do we do that?
Well, you can apply for immunity. The Trade Practices Act provides two
processes under which you can apply for immunity. The first is known as
‘Notification’. A notification, if allowed by the ACCC, provides immunity to the
collective bargaining group for up to three years. The second option is known
as ‘Authorisation’. Authorisation is generally a longer process but allows for
more flexibility in the collective bargaining arrangements. The processes suit
different circumstances, and the ACCC can give you more information about
which process may be better for you.
So, we just contact the ACCC and that’s it?
No, to lodge a notification or apply for authorisation, businesses need to
complete the required forms, which gives the ACCC the information it needs
to assess the application, and then pay a small lodgement fee.
To be successful, the ACCC has to be satisfied that collective bargaining will
deliver benefits to the public, not just to the collective bargaining group.
The ACCC must also be satisfied that these benefits are not outweighed by
any negative consequences – including the effect of the collective bargaining
What sort of thing would they support?
There are many examples of collective bargaining arrangements which have
been allowed by the ACCC. Groups, some that have brought their industry or
trade associations into the process, have been able to conduct collective
bargaining which has led to greater efficiencies and cost benefits to the public.
Collective bargaining can deliver real benefits to both sides of a negotiation.
For example by allowing small businesses to get together, the input those
businesses have in the development of their contracts with the counterparty
can be improved. This can result in benefits for the counterparty as well – by
collectively addressing inefficiencies in the contract and delivering a more
profitable outcome for all.
The PRESENTER is now sitting at a table and a FEMALE in business attire
walks towards him.
I represent fifty motels interested in subscribing to your Pay TV Service.
Well, that’s interesting – let’s negotiate.
Where participation in the negotiations are voluntary, and the negotiations are
supported by both the bargaining group and the counterparty – in that case,
the Pay TV supplier – the application is likely to be more successful.
The PRESENTER is now with the original MALE and FEMALE who were
discussing collective bargaining.
I’ll talk to the carrier.
And where the effects of the bargaining are limited – a small geographic area,
for example, rather than an industry-wide deal, again, that would be viewed as
a positive. The process of assessing applications for authorisation and
notification is open and transparent. And you should know that. It is a public
process and the ACCC will invite comment from interested parties, before
issuing a public decision about your application.
I’m not put off. I think it could be worth going for.
The FEMALE nods agreement.
There are a number of places you can go for further information about
collective bargaining. For example, you can contact one of the many
government-sponsored business advisory services across Australia. If you are
a member of a trade or professional association, you can discuss the topic
with them or you can seek private legal advice on the matter. The ACCC has
got all the information you need, it publishes booklets, operates an Infocentre
and it’s got a really informative website. It’s concern with collective bargaining,
as with every aspect of the Trade Practices Act, is to make sure that business
large and small is competing fairly.
ACCC small business helpline: 1300 302 021
ACCC website: http://www.accc.gov.au