What you need to know about Enterprise Bargaining Agreements

Up until the early 1990s most Australians were employed under an “industrial award”, which usually granted all wage earners in one industry or particular occupation the same minimum pay and conditions.

Awards also covered leave entitlements, overtime and shift work, as well as other workplace-related conditions.

Unlike awards, enterprise bargaining agreements (EBAs) are made at an enterprise level between employers and employees and their union, about terms and conditions of employment.

They can also be made by more than one employer, with a group of employees.

In general, conditions and entitlements found in a particular award are also the minimum standard in an EBA.

And awards and enterprise agreements cannot offer less than is specified within the base standards stipulated by the National Employment Standards.
Need advice on your enterprise agreement? Contact your AWU delegate or join the union.


Enterprise bargaining agreements were introduced in Australia under the Hawke-Keating Labor Government Prices and Incomes Accord in 1991.
They later became the centrepiece of the Australian industrial relations system when the Accord was revised in 1993, ending nearly a century of centralised wage-fixing based industrial relations.

The idea was that workers and employees would both benefit.
A well-thought-out EBA would benefit employers by allowing for improved “flexibility” in such areas as ordinary hours, flat rates of hourly pay, and performance-related conditions.

And workers would be compensated for their increased flexibility through higher pay, bonuses, additional leave and enhanced entitlements (such as redundancy pay) compared to an old, rigid industry award.


EBAs are usually negotiated between your union and your employer. Your union (the AWU) represents your interests if you’re a member.
The process can take weeks or months of discussion and a great deal of industrial knowledge and expertise in negotiations to work through issues of importance to each side, but that’s something the AWU is especially skilled at.

Unionised workplaces also usually have better wages and conditions, because employees working together with the resources of a union behind them have more bargaining strength.

Need advice on your enterprise agreement? Need to get organised? Contact your AWU delegate, or join the union!


There are three types of EBA:

● Single-enterprise agreements: agreements between single employers and their employees.
● Multi-enterprise agreements: agreements between a group of employees and multiple employers.
● Greenfields agreements: agreements between employers and a union in a new workplace. These are made before the employer has hired anyone, which is why it is vital that unions are involved, so that future employees are sure to get a fair deal.

To begin the process, employers must inform their employees of their right to be represented by a bargaining representative (for example, your AWU delegate).
If an employee is a member of a union, the default bargaining representative is their union unless the employee appoints another person. But a bargaining representative can be:

● An employer covered by the agreement;
● A trade union that has a member who will be covered by the agreement (unless the member has specified in writing that he or she does not wish to be represented by the trade union, or has appointed someone else);
● A trade union that has applied to the Fair Work Commission for a low paid authorisation that relates to the agreement; or
● A person specified in writing as their bargaining representative by either an employer or employee who will be covered by the agreement.
Employers, employees and their bargaining representatives then begin the give-and-take process of bargaining for a new EBA.
EBAs can be fine-tuned to suit the needs of a specific workplace or sector, but negotiations will cover a range of things such as:
● Pay rates;
● Penalty rates and allowances;
● Superannuation;
● Hours of work;
● Overtime arrangements;
● Safety;
● Training;
● Dispute-resolution procedures.

During the process your AWU delegates will hold meetings to ask for your feedback, keep you informed of developments, get you to vote on further action, or vote to accept the new EBA.

And although employers and employees can make concessions when coming to an agreement, EBAs must always leave employees better off overall than they would have been under the relevant award.

Once all parties endorse the proposed EBA the Fair Work Commission must also assess it for approval.


Fair Work Australia insists on a key rule when working on an EBA: bargaining in good faith.
This means that, basically, both sides have to play fair, and must:

● Recognise and bargain with the other bargaining representatives;
● Attend and participate in meetings at reasonable times;
● Disclose relevant information in a timely manner (other than confidential or commercially sensitive information);
● Respond to proposals made by the other bargaining representatives in a timely manner;
● Genuinely consider the proposals of the other bargaining reps and provide reasons for the responses;
● Refrain from behaving in a way that undermines freedom of association or collective bargaining.
Agreements must be registered and approved by the Fair Work Commission before they come into effect.
They usually last from one to four years and remain in place until they expire or are terminated.
Their conditions also usually continue unchanged until they are superseded by a new EBA.



To have your say in what is negotiated on your behalf, you just need to join the AWU. That way you get to participate and vote every step of the way towards your new EBA.

AWU members effectively pay for all employees to be represented in negotiations with your employer, so the more members of a workforce who are financial members, the more resources your union has to negotiate on your behalf.

Need advice on your enterprise agreement? Need to get organised? Contact your AWU delegate, or join the union!


No. You cannot make new individual agreements. This is designed to protect people from being played off against one another.


Need advice on your enterprise agreement? To find out, or for other information, contact your AWU delegate, or join the union!
If you think want more information about your workplace EBA, contact your AWU delegate, or join the union.

Be a part of our community.

Join the AWU.

Stronger together.


Member Benefits