Guardian Essential poll: almost two-thirds of voters back Labor’s plan for multi-employer pay deals

Half of Australians say Albanese government’s workplace bill is key to lifting wages, with majority support for all of bill’s individual measures, poll suggests

Half of Australians approve of Labor’s industrial relations bill, with even its most controversial proposals for multi-employer pay deals and flexible work rights enjoying majority support.

That is the conclusion of the latest Guardian Essential poll of 1,035 voters, which found exactly 50% say the bill is key to getting wages moving and gives power back to employees.

The poll is a boost to the Albanese government’s secure jobs, better pay bill, which passed the House of Representatives on Thursday but needs one more vote to the pass the Senate, where Labor is lobbying the ACT’s David Pocock to get it over the line.

Despite unanimous opposition from all major employer groups, including the Council of Small Business Organisations, just 27% of Essential’s respondents agreed the bill “gives too much influence to unions and will be bad for the economy and businesses”.

The Essential poll found no significant gender difference in support for the bill, but more men said it was bad for the economy and business (35%) than did women (21%), while more women were unsure (29%) than men (16%).

Asked about its individual measures, the poll found majority support for: strengthening the power of lower paid workers to negotiate pay rises (72%), strengthening laws to close the gender pay gap (70%), and giving employees more power to have flexible work conditions, such as varied hours or working from home (66%).

Even the proposal to give “workers the ability to join together across different workplaces to collectively negotiate pay rises”, known as multi-employer bargaining, won 62% support with just 14% opposed.

The poll comes as research from the Centre for Future Work estimates that multi-employer bargaining could boost Australian workers’ pay by 1.6%, or $1,473 in the first year for a worker on the average full-time wage.

The research, by economist and director of the centre, Jim Stanford, calculated the impact on wages if Australia’s coverage of collective pay deals increased to the average of countries with multi-employer options.

With a 1.6% year-on-year increase, after five years the average worker would receive $8,300 more, and a total additional income of almost $24,000 in that time, the report found.

Pocock has proposed splitting the bill to pass the “supported stream” for multi-employer bargaining in low-paid industries this year, and leaving the “single-interest stream” for the rest of the economy to be dealt with next year.

The poll found Anthony Albanese’s approval rating lifted two points to 60%, while his disapproval also crept up a point to 27%.

There was a stronger move in the number of voters saying Australia is on the wrong track, up five points to 34%. About 46% say the country is on the right track, down one point, while 20% were unsure, down four.

Approval for Australia’s direction beat respondents’ impression of the US, who 49% said was on the wrong track, and the UK (40%). Those results were dwarfed by those with concerns about the direction of China (60%) and Russia (79%).

Respondents had a mixed reaction to the COP27 climate talks, with exactly half (50%) saying they can make a meaningful difference to climate change, while 37% said they could not.

Respondents were also asked a series of questions about Twitter, prominent in the headlines since billionaire Tesla chief executive Elon Musk’s $44bn acquisition of the social media giant.

Of respondents, 43% said it was inappropriate for politicians to use Twitter, while 41% said they should use it although it was secondary to other media and forms of engagement. About 16% said it was a “vital channel” to hear from politicians.

Asked about Twitter’s role spreading information, half (52%) said it was an “open forum” to say anything you want, 21% said it was a reliable source of information, while 20% said it was home to “hate speech, lies and misinformation”.

Most respondents (62%) said they “never” used Twitter as a source of news, or social or political information.

Frequent users were rare, with just 9% reporting they use it every day, 13% several times a week, 8% several times a month and 7% once a month or less.

Men were more likely than women to use it every day, 13% to 5%, while women were more likely to never use it than men, 67% to 57%.


Paul Karp

The GuardianTramp

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