Ms McManus will say that business can work with unions to deliver fair pay rises and greater job security. The ACTU has been pushing for industry-wide bargaining to tackle stagnant wages growth.
“We are ready to build a wages system that works for everyone,” she says. “That delivers productivity but also rewards and respects working people with fair pay rises that boost living standards co-operation and consensus are possible, but only when both sides are willing to admit we have a problem.”
Ms McManus will also challenge the federal government’s “unshakable belief” that corporate tax cuts “will trickle down as pay rises”.
“As the United States example shows, they are wrong,” she will say.
“We are feeling the consequences of five years with no real wage growth at a time of record profits.
“People have been cutting into their savings. People have less to spend. This is not just a problem for retail sales, but for the quality of life for most Australians.”
Australian Industry Group chief executive Innes Willox said that on behalf of his members from across industry “we are always open to engaging in constructive dialogue with individual unions and the union movement as a whole”.
“Employers will respond to talks entered into in good faith but the language of industrial and class warfare that we have seen in recent years is not helpful,” he said.
“We all want safe workplaces, good wages, competitive and sustainable businesses, and reward for innovation and productivity. Employers and their workforces work best when they work together.”
Earlier this week, the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry called on the federal government to beef up the Fair Work Ombudsman (FWO) to pursue employers who underpay staff, saying the problem is “widespread”.
Its pre-budget submission to government says there is an increasing awareness of and concern within the Australian community about non-compliance with workplace laws, and an expectation of there being “a tough cop on the beat”.
“Notwithstanding that the FWO represents world’s best practice in enforcement, there is clear and increasing community concern that underpayments are too frequent and widespread,” the submission says.
Anna Patty is Workplace Editor for The Sydney Morning Herald. She is a former Education Editor, State Political Reporter and Health Reporter. Her reports on inequity in schools funding led to the Gonski reforms and won her national awards. Her coverage of health exposed unnecessary patient deaths at Campbelltown Hospital and led to judicial and parliamentary inquiries. At The Times of London, she exposed flaws in international medical trials.