THE Australian Consumer and Competition Commission (ACCC) is promoting new rules that make it easier for farmers and small businesses to band together and collectively bargain with suppliers and customers.
Changes to existing laws came into effect in November 2017, making it easier for business groups to lodge the required notifications of collective bargaining.
The ACCC has opened consultation on new guidelines to business around the authorisation and notification processes for obtaining approvals for collective bargaining and boycotts.
The changes mean a collective bargaining notification can now be lodged to cover future members of the collective bargaining group, not just current members, and single notification can cover multiple targets to cover collective bargaining with more than one business.
There are also new safeguards that the ACCC said makes it more likely that collective boycotts will be allowed.
In December the ACCC authorised broiler chicken growers in the South Australian Baiada Growers Group to collectively bargain the terms and conditions of contracts with processor, Baiada.
The group represents all growers contracted to Baiada in SA.
In November, The Eastern Energy Buyers Group applied to the ACCC to run a joint tender processes for electricity, gas and gas transport.
The ACCC issued an approval to a collective bargaining arrangement for energy contracts to a group of Victorian agribusinesses, which allows significant future expansion of the joint tender.
Members will pool their electricity and gas demands and place tenders in the market.
The group includes Ridley, Rivalea, Turi Foods, Australian Lamb Co., CSF Proteins, Diamond Valley Port, Gathercole Group, HW Greenham and Sons and Herd.
The authorisation allows other industrial energy users to join the group and increase the size of the joint tender’s combined annual energy consumption, which can grow from 0.12 Terawatt hours of electricity consumption and 1.2 Petajoules of gas to 4.5 Terawatt hours of electricity and 16 Petajoules of gas.