Relations with employees and trade unions
Management decisions in the work places in Australia have always incorporated employers and trade union committees. However, the need to involve the employee increases, and Weller and VanGramberg (2009: 1) recognize the shift of management involvement from a bipartite of employers and trade union committees, to a tripartite of employers, trade union committees and employees. The Australian education sector particularly faces the influence of the employer, trade unionists and employees in management involvement.
This is because the education sector has revolved over the decades and more so, the higher education sector is among the largest export industries in Australia (May, et. al, 2007: 1). Despite a tripartite involvement in management decisions, it is the employers who possess a degree of choice in the way they seek to conduct their relations with employees and trade unions. Firstly, employers determine conditions in standard employment and therefore influence the employment trends in Australia today. Second, Federal Acts seem to encourage the individualization of workplace policies and empowers employers to determine most of the choices.
Thirdly, trade union committees tend to forego their own decisions in favour of the choices pushed by employers. Finally, employers are in a position to influence most of decisions that favour
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This is a major factor that contributes to the current tremendous strain in the academic sector. Employment conditions face tremendous deregulations and eroded strategies in standard employment (Burgess & Strachan, 2005: 1, Hall, 2002: 4). According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, the largest percentage of the labour force comprises contractual as opposed to standard workers. Standard workers in this case refer to those employees who are entitled to the employer’s rights and benefits, including involvement in trade unions.
However, employers tend to seek the non standard or contractual worker who posses fewer or no legal objectivities and benefits under the employer. Consequently, this situation lives the employer with a higher degree of choice on the kind of terms and conditions laid, because the employees are not permanent. Furthermore, being non-members of trade unionists, they cannot liaise with trade union committees to question the employers’ motives. The education sector has not been left behind in possessing a large number of casual and temporary staff.
Due to the reduced entitlement to rights and benefits, it should be noted that these employees tend to be paid low wages and subjected to poor conditions, and staff turnover is inevitable before or after the contractual period (Hall, 2002: 6). As a matter of fact, employers’ practices favour casual labor because of underlying advantages such as cheapness or affordability to the sector; flexibility of casual workers and that they can be used to carry out roles that are not within specific job descriptions; dismissal is easy and does not attract legal implications; management and paper work is easier and compliancy is great.
On the other hand, proponents of a casual work force argue that most employees undertaking casual employment are satisfied with their kind of job and management has lesser control over them. Moreover, casual employment seems to shield the majority of the work force from insecurity, because many employers avail temporary jobs readily (Hoeckel et. al, 2008: 9). Employees’ individual choices, structural changes that favour the service sector like education, and institutional factors that tend to weaken the trade unions are some of the factors attributed to the high non standard employment in Australia.
Established federal Acts contribute to the reduced regulation and standards of formal employment, and instead encourage the employers to impart their interests in both direct and indirect measures on issues concerning labour in the education sector (Dabsheck, 2006: 86). The government seem to encourage the individualization of workplace policies and empowers employers to determine most of the choices. Casual labour in the universities has risen, and this is contributed by the government’s decision to reduce investments and federal funds that support management of universities.
The government established the Higher Education Workplace Relations Requirements policy (HEWRR) that seeks to guide institutions to come up with alternate means of funding and making employment arrangements (May, et. al, 2008: 2, McCarry, 2006: 6). On the other hand the number of students continues to rise, and in the bid to avail affordable services to the increasing number of students, the employers are left with the choice of casual labour. The Work Choices Act of 2005 is a HEWRRs contemporary that seeks to lift any constraints on employers wishing to invest in casual labour at the national level.
Such policies have commercialized and grown the education sector through encouraging individualization of management activities in the institutions. The number of foreign students increases over the years and this significantly contributes to the growth of the education sector. However, the HEWRRs allows employers to manage the revenues of their institutions and most employers have responded to this by using the revenue to further attract more foreign students rather than improve the local education sector, or create better employment terms for their employees.
Casual academic staff faces both poor payment and working conditions and in some universities, a one hour’s notice is enough to terminate an employee. Arguably, the existence of a large casual work force in the academic sector contributes to a desired workforce in the country’s labor industry (Hoeckel, Field, Justesen, & Kim, 2008: 13). However, the laissez faire approach of the government on management of the universities and the employer’s freedom of control, to some extent jeopardizes the ethical and moral standards that the employees are subjected to Barrett, 2004: 97).
What is the need to have a large workforce of ill-treated, frustrated and unsatisfied labourers? Frustrated employees are likely to deliver unsatisfactory services, and surprisingly in the education sector, quality services are directed more towards foreign students who often live the country after completing their studies. This is disadvantageous to the education sector because it is through education that Australia increases the chance for getting a demography which is knowledgeable and suits employment and in turn works to boost the country’s economy (Considine, et.
al 2001: 7). However, government and employment policies seem to en courage brain drain. Trade union committees tend to forego their own decisions in favour of the choices pushed by employers who in turn are favoured by government policies as stipulated in the 1996 Workplace Relations Act and the 2005 WorkChoices Act. Prior to these policies, the trade unions could regulate or restrict the proliferation of casual labour and even compensate the member employers intending to delve in the practice.
Trade unionists came up with strategies to render casual labour less attractive and a demeaning form of employment. Mechanisms wear sought to convert temporary staff members to standard or permanent staff after a defined period of working and awards were given to complying parties (Russels & Timo, 1998: 296). Trade unionists are blamed for being indifferent to policies that flourished non-standard employments, however, it should be noted that other factors also determine e the push for this kind of employment.
The federal work policies have already been laid and casual labour has tremendously increased in most of the service sectors. The trade union faces the challenge of misrepresenting the large number of casual labourers who are seemingly mistreated under exploiting employers’ terms. A likeable option is for the Australian trade union to modify the structure and incorporate casual labour representation, but the government policies seem to empower employers more and leave the trade unions with fewer choices.
The National Trade Education Union (NTEU) shows concern over job insecurity of the casual staff members in the education sector. Discrimination aspects on hiring and unfair treatment basing on gender (Carrington & Pratt, 2003: 6) are some of the issues that NTEU longs to solve. Development and delivery of course work are aspects that affect quality of the education given and therefore need to be tackled. For instance, an employee may chose to resign or be terminated by the management before completion of the coursework.
The employers do not lose much because all they have to do is replace the casual staff with another one but, the employee risks not being paid, especially if delivery of the course was incomplete. The saddening aspect is that the employee could have taken many hours in the housework preparation but the pay only reflects the coursework delivery which takes fewer hours. NTEU mostly blames the government for coming up with policies that give employers powers to set up their own terms and conditions on issues that affect both the employer, employee and trade union committees.
Suggestions on involving the employees and trade union committees in managerial decisions have been proposed with the aim of benefiting all the parties. However, it should be noted that employers still hold more power as far as casual labour is concerned and can readily modify the terms and conditions to suit their likelihood. On the other hand the employer is put on a position whether accepting the deal or restating and quitting are the only options (Abbot, 2006: 139). Trade unions are on their part left defenceless by the law and therefore most likely to abide with the employers’ side of view.
Conclusion Employers are in a position to influence the decisions that favour their choices through their involvement with the employees and trade union committees. Ideally, there is a perception that management decisions are contributed by the three parties but this is not the case realistically, because employers have the ability to direct the decisions to favour them. The government policies such as the WorkChoices Act provide a defence base of employer’s investment to casual labor in the service industry such as education which would preferably do better with perm anent labor.
Policies may change through persistence of trade union committees and employees but the two groups seem reluctant and divided over the employers’ authority and therefore casual labor continues to flourish in the country’s largest export service industry-the education sector. References Abbot, K. (2006, May). “Few choices under Work Choices. ” International Review of Business Research Papers, Vol 2 (137-149). Available online http://www. bizresearchpapers. com/keithpap. pdf. Barrett, S. (2004). Emotional labour and the permanent casual lecturer: Ideas for a research project.
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