Bill Shorten's proposed two-part strategy for dealing with stagnant wages growth, outlined yesterday at the Press Club, has already elicited the now proforma cries of "war on business" but isn't especially radical. Shorten proposed a pincer movement, if you like -- an increase in the minimum wage closer to a "living wage", and an end to an increasingly favoured tactic of employers -- resolving industrial disputes by terminating enterprise agreements and letting workers fall back down to award "safety net" rates.
Remember that enterprise bargaining was introduced by the Keating government with the support of the ACTU, over a distinct lack of enthusiasm from the then-Industrial Relations Commission and employers. It was entirely consistent with neoliberal logic that said wages should not be made at a national level -- as they were until then via the awards system -- but decentralised so that employers and employees could negotiate wages and conditions at the workplace level, with awards staying as a safety net. IR hardliners wanted to take that logic all the way to individual agreements, happily ignoring that few workers had the bargaining power to negotiate fairly with even small employers -- as bitter experience under Workchoices showed.