The Australian System of Employment Relations since 1980
With the election of the Hawke Labour Government on March 5, 1983, a process occurred that changed the employment relations regulation in Australia. Most of these alterations were not implemented until 1988 and onwards. But the process was commenced almost from the inception of the Hawke/Keating/Kelty axis. Those alterations were aimed at the two fundamental issues referred to above. It sought, from the union perspective, to restructure unions in a way which will diminish their capacity and to rely solely on the industrial tribunals for their “strength” and required them to “work for a living”.
This was done, itself, in two ways. “First, centralised wage fixation was given greater weight than had previously been the case and individual rates of pay and conditions of employment, over and above the centralised system, was “relegated” to collective bargaining, without the assistance of the Commission (at least at a formal level). The second attack on “weak” unions was the restructuring of the unions themselves and the amalgamation of unions.
This was effected by rewriting the statutory provisions to ease the capacity to amalgamate and to mandate a role for the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) in determining when and with whom such amalgamations occurred” (Rothman, 2007). 2. Industrial Relations Legislation By Work Choices legislation (Workplace Relations Amendment Act 2005) of the federal government that came into force in early 2006, these developments are captured.
In 2005, after the unexpectedly gaining control of both houses of parliament, the conservative government forwarded its extensive industrial relations legislation without prior discussion, debate, or even inquiry. Federal government attempted to shift the responsibility for industrial relations away from the state governments by using the corporation law and at the same time centralize power with minister as well as federal bureaucracy, supplanting traditional industrial relations third parties.
The said Work Choices legislation based on the article, is “an expression of neo-liberal ideal of marginalizing unions, eroding collective arrangements, corroding the arbitration system, strengthening managerial prerogatives as well as facilitating individual bargaining. ” In the legislation, the choices largely extend to offering employers choice with regards to type of agreement making they wish to apply to the workplace.
Moreover, in contrast, to employees under the legislation, there are few choices (Burgess, 2006; Isaac, & Landsbury, 2005; Peetz, 2006). As discussed earlier in the study, during the past two decades, in Australia, reform of employment relations has been centralized to political as well as economic debate. In the late 1980’s with the cooperation of the union movement, the process of enterprise bargaining begun, by Hawk Labour government as an attempt to decentralize employment relation system (Lansbury, 2000).