Union Boss Says Australian Workers Could Be 'Pricing Ourselves Out Of The Market'

Australian Workers Union boss Paul Howes has called for compromise between workers and big businesses, warning that inflexible labour laws could make a looming jobs crisis worse.

Addressing the National Press Club in Canberra today, Howes said Australia had been stuck in a “mindless see-saw” pattern of industrial relations that favoured unions under a Labor government and businesses under the Coalition.

He blamed Australia’s “hyper-adversarial” approach to industrial relations for dragging Australia down in global competitiveness rankings.

Australia dropped out of the top 20 countries in the World Economic Forum’s September 2013 competitiveness report due to red tape, costs and labour market conditions.

Here’s what Howes said:

“We have created a hyper-adversarial culture – industrial relations as a bloodsport … The union side could begin by conceding that there has been a pattern of unsustainable growth in wages in some isolated parts of the economy.

The leap-frog wage outcomes in the offshore sector in particular are not going to be sustainable for the long-term – we could be pricing ourselves out of the market.

On the flip side business could concede that on the whole, economy-wide – wages growth is at the lowest level that is has ever been – and industrial disputation is at record lows.

[…]

We must agree that Australia is at risk if we fail to compete against nations with more harmonious industrial relations.”

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