ACCC Class Exemption for Small Business Collective Bargaining Starts Tomorrow

Photo by Anna Shvets on work desk showing people’s hands and notes as they negotiate a deal

The ACCC’s small business collective bargaining class exemption, which has been coming for some time, is now set to start on 3 June 2021.

The exemption makes it lawful for some small businesses to engage in collective commercial bargaining without contravening Australian competition laws.

It will be interesting to see what use staffing agencies are able to make of it in banding together to negotiate with customers and suppliers. If you are an on-hire agency, your independent contractors may also be able to band together to negotiate with you.

Other applications might permit some platform workers to band together to negotiate with their platform controller.

Be careful, though. There are some limits that you will need to stay within and there is a notification process.

Have a read of the determination and share your thoughts? What uses do you see for the new exemption?

Andrew C. Wood

3 thoughts on “ACCC Class Exemption for Small Business Collective Bargaining Starts Tomorrow

  1. Hi Andrew,

    Thank you for this update.

    I notice from first glance that it appears that it would only be for businesses that have a turnover under $10million which would rule out a lot of the professional contracting companies like ourselves?

    Is this the case?

    It is a shame as in the medical market we only have a handful of large clients (the state / territory governments) and safe to say by and large we are treated very bluntly by them from a rate point of view.

    kind regards

    Ryan Kevelighan

    +61 4222 36968

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Ryan,

      Thanks for your comment. Yes. You’re absolutely correct.

      We submitted that the protection should extend to contracting firms that have less than 20 regularly engaged internal staff regardless of turnover because we recognised that contracting firms often have high turnover, low margin, and are essentially in the same position as small business in dealing with much larger clients and suppliers. Unfortunately the submisison did not prevali.

      Nevertheless, collective bargaining protection may still be available through different notification and authorisation procedures. Sadly, though, the reality is that there is often not enough time to get authorisation if you are responding to a tender. The result is that clients often miss out on getting the sort of innovative and cost-effective supply arrangements that they have asked for and might have achieved through collective bargaining with an authorised network of providers.

      On the other hand, the exemption may be helpful for some of the smaller perm placement agencies and would also be available to a contracting agency’s on-hire independent contractos. The firm thus becomes the target of collective bargaining rather than the instigator, There are some opportunities there that some agencies might wish to explore.

      Kind regards


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