The modern era: The development of a modern minimum wage

Updated time

Last updated

05 September 2016

Over the next twenty years, thousands of federal and State awards were replaced by 122 national awards, which are simpler and clearer.

In 1991, a system of enterprise bargaining and agreements was introduced. This allowed businesses, employees and unions to focus on the specific needs and conditions of each enterprise, rather than imposing uniform wages and conditions across an industry. After its introduction, the role of the minimum wage has increasingly become that of a ‘safety net’.

In thirty years of reform the Commission attempted to combine promoting productivity and efficiency in workplaces, with maintaining a fair and decent safety net for employees. It worked with employers and employer associations, trade unions and employees, social groups, and federal and State Governments of all persuasions to achieve the results that it did. 

Enterprise bargaining: Wage and working conditions being negotiated at the level of the individual organisations, usually in Australia. Once established, they are legally binding on employers and employees.

1991 cartoon: Enterprise bargaining—The way to the future