ACCC allows union to represent SA milk vendors in negotiations

Posted by Isobel Drake on 11th September 2009

South Australia’s milk vendors will be able to negotiate in groups with National Foods and Parmalat for another five years under an authorisation granted by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission.

Milk vendors are small businesses that on-sell dairy products from dairy processors or transport dairy products for them.

The ACCC has authorised the Transport Workers Union of Australia SA/NT Branch to engage in collective bargaining negotiations with National Foods and Parmalat on behalf of the vendors, after concluding that such group bargaining is likely to result in better input into the contract-negotiation process and lower negotiation costs than if the vendors negotiate individually.

“Importantly, participation in collective negotiations will ultimately remain voluntary on both sides and there will be no so called ‘collective boycotts’,” ACCC chairman Graeme Samuel said. “This decision is based on there being separate bargaining groups for each processor.”

These important features limit the potential for milk vendors bargaining collectively to generate anti-competitive detriment.

The ACCC’s decision to authorise the arrangements affirms its draft decision issued in July this year.

In 2005, the ACCC authorised the Milk Vendors Association of South Australia to engage in similar collective bargaining for five years. Going forward, the union is now able to negotiate on vendors’ behalf.

Collecting bargaining refers to competitors collectively negotiating terms and conditions with a supplier or customer and can raise concerns under the competition provisions of the Trade Practices Act 1974. The ACCC may grant immunity to the conduct when it is satisfied the likely public benefit from the conduct outweighs any likely anti-competitive detriment.