Union boss calls for end to fight over industrial relations

UNION leader Paul Howes has called for "a grand compact" between unions and business, saying the "see-saw" fight over industrial relations must end.

The Australian Workers Union national secretary made the call during a National Press Club speech on Wednesday where he also hit out at criminals in unions as "traitors".

Mr Howes used his fourth speech at the club to call for concessions from both sides of the wages debate, to use the Abbott Government's first term as a time to renegotiate concessions.

He said Australia's workplace debate had been on a see-saw from one side to the other for decades, invoking the memory of the 1980s Wages Accord as a potential starting point for a new compact.

"We can all hammer out a terrific piece of industrial relations legislation - but it won't mean anything unless business, unions and the major parties make a real effort to show some faith in it," he said.

"Because our key problem is not a failure of structure - but a failure of social capital."

Mr Howes said he was ready to make compromises and concessions in the national interest.

"And my invitation to my counterparts in the business community is to join me. And together we can agree to never whinge to the umpire again," he said.

The speech comes as the Abbott Government pushes for a reassessment of modern award wages, through a four-year review of awards currently underway.