ACCC’s Collective Bargaining Small Business Class Exemption Procedure Finding Favour amongst Health Practitioners.

Photo by Canva Studio on

It’s been interesting to track the uptake of the ACCC’s streamlined procedure for granting exemption to small businesses wanting to engage in collective bargaining with customers and suppliers. As was expected, there was early uptake by newsagents and car dealership franchisees when the exemption procedures commenced on June 3, 2021. Somewhat surprising (or not, depending on your perspective and experience), has been the uptake by healthcare professionals.


In one application, the  Australian Society of Anaesthetists accessed the exemption procedure on behalf of anaesthetists treating public health system patients in private hospitals in Victoria. 

The Society indicated that is wished to negotiate about “processes to ensure the safety of public health system patients treated in private hospitals, industrial conditions and remuneration of anaesthetists participating in such treatment.”


In another application, a bargaining group of dentists and dental practices significantly owned by members of the Australian Dental Association accessed the exemption procedure to collectively negotiate with private health insurance companies, their intermediaries, and payment gateway providers about the terms and conditions of provider contracts and policies and “all matters related to the conduct of the target businesses … including rights to contract”.


The subject matter of the exempted negotiations remains strongly “industrial”, at present. That might not be surprising.

However, locum agencies who have significant numbers of independent contractor locums on their books might start to anticipate that, before too long, independent professional health practitioners, who up until now have not had much access to collective bargaining, may shortly wake up to the fact that the ACCC’s streamlined process now gives them that access if they can organise themselves into bargaining groups.

At some point, recruitment and staffing agencies may also begin to recognise the potential to collectively negotiate on tenders – especially if their bargaining groups are able to harness competitive cost and supply efficiencies that can be available through networked arrangements.

It’s a fascinating development to watch unfold. And, whilst the streamlined class exemption procedure doesn’t compel the target to negotiate with the group, it might often be wiser to find ways of using the procedure constructively than to resist it. Recruitment and staffing firms and procurers of their services should take note.

Andrew C. Wood

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