Summary of Argument (Introduction)
Since the commencement of the 1990s consecutive Australian national governments (from both right and left of the political spectrum) have supervised a move in the guideline of employment relations from one based on centralised arbitrated awards to one of enterprise-bargaining(Gahan et.al,2000). The ostensible purpose of this policy was to facilitate the development of workplace-focussed systems of regulation, which were sensitive to the need for flexible production and employment systems in the context of the global economy. However, this policy was introduced only subject to certain conditions, which purported to guarantee the security of workers (Watson, et.al, 2003). These guarantees are substantively set out in the terms of the Workplace Relations Act 1996 (Cth). They include the statutory commitment that workers will not be ‘disadvantaged’ as a result of entering into enterprise-based agreements; that such agreements will only be made with the genuine consent of the majority of workers; and that such consent will be appropriately informed.
It is Management’s incompetent-power to implement its prudence in certain quarters devoid of discussions with or the agreement of a union (Dabschek, 1989).
List of topics to be covered
1. Background facts about Enterprise bargaining
Enterprise bargaining is the bargaining or negotiation of the terms and conditions of employment between employers and employees or their respective representatives. It is undertaken cooperatively, as the employer and employees or their respective representatives are equal partners in the negotiating process which provides an opportunity to discuss changes to the way work is done, changes to conditions and productivity improvements that will mutually benefit both employer and employees (Black and Lynch, 2001).
2. Employer's view
From the employers' point of view, deregulation of the market for labour (workers are after all just another commodity under capitalism)(Montgomery,1954) would allow them to cut workers' wages and conditions even faster, especially as the threat of the sack became more potent with rising unemployment.
3. Union's view
They believe it comprises the rights to allocate and guide personnel, to decide the means to regulate workers for just grounds, to augment and decrease the workforce consistent with the requirement of company's productions or accessibility of money, and choose what goods are tendered for sale, at what cost, and by which technique (Ramon et.al, 1998).
4. Legislation or regulation
One of the key objectives of the Workplace Relations Act has been not merely to shift the focus of regulation to the enterprise, but to shift the source of the regulation to the parties themselves (Wooden, 2000). This, combined with its markedly increased workload following the shift to enterprise bargaining, has reduced the investigative and judicial role of the Australian Industrial Relations Tribunal.
The shift in Australian labour law from a mixture of ‘self-regulation’ and centralised ‘command and control’ style regulation to ‘enforced self-regulation’ (Alfred, 2005) thus signals a systemic and profound reorientation in regulatory policy and technique. However, at the same time, given that these policies have been constructed onto an older-form system and partly based in pre-existing institutions, there is considerable confusion and conflict within and between institutions, and regulatory actors and subjects, about the purposes and direction of these reforms
Alfred, S. (2005) ‘A Simple Plan for Workplace Regulation?’ Industrial Law News, Issue 7, 20 July, www.cch.com.au, pp.1-3.
Dabschek, B (1989) Australian Industrial Relations in the 1980s, Oxford University Press, Melbourne.
Gahan, P. Mitchell R., Creighton K., T. Josev, J. Fetter, and D. Buttergeig, (2000) ‘Regulating for Performance? Certified Agreements and the Diffusion of High Performance Work Practices’, Paper delivered to the Australian Labour Law Association, Second National Conference, Employment Regulation for a Changing Workplace, Sydney University Law School,
Montgomery, P., (1954) Judges in Industry, Melbourne University Press, Melbourne,
Ramon. B., and Cave, M., (1999) Understanding Regulation, Oxford University Press, Oxford,
Ramon. B., Scott, C. and Hood ,C., Regulation, (1998) Oxford University Press, Oxford, , p. 24
Black S. E. and Lynch, L. M. (2001) ‘How to Compete: The Impact of Workplace Practices and Information Technology on Productivity’ 83 Review of Economics and Statistics 434
Watson, I. Buchanan, I. Campbell J., and Briggs , C., (2003) Fragmented Futures: New Challenges in Working Life, Federation Press, Sydney, , p.189;
Wooden, M. (2000) The Transformation of Industrial Relations, Federation Press, Sydney,, pp.533ff.