Labour laws come from a body of administrative rulings, laws and regulations that are meant to address the legal rights and restrictions of workers and their organizations/ employers. These laws help in improving the relationship between employers, trade unions and employees. Since the 19th century, labour rights have been playing a crucial role in the development of the industrial revolution both socially and economically.
These labour laws arose due to the inequality that existed between employees and employees especially when it came to workers’ demands for better conditions like health, safety and wages and employers’ demands for reduced labour costs. Therefore, labour laws are meant to e fair to both parties (employers and employees) thus, they are both a product and a component of different struggles between different interests in society. (Plowman, and Preston, 2005) Overview
On 7th December 2005, the Australian Government under Prime Minister John Howard secured passage through the Australian parliament of Workplace Relations Amendment Act 2005. This legislation will greatly affect the conduct of Australian industrial relations. It will also greatly influence the way that the rules that regulate employment relationship in Australia are made and implemented. However, a complete analysis of these reforms has not been made. (Bray et al 2005)
The reason why these reforms had to be made was to ensure that the loopholes and strategies that unions had developed since the Workplace Relations Act 1996 were closed off. The Australian labor party identified industrial relations gaps between what it and Howard’s government stood for. The labor’s policy platform focused on four major things: encourage family friendly workplaces, improving job security, assist parties to avoid and resolve disputes (ALP 2004) and restore the right to bargain collectively.
In the 1970s, the Australian economic capacity was greatly diminished by adverse trade movements and oil price shocks. This forced the successive governments to introduce a range of reforms meant to enhance the competitiveness of Australian industries in international markets. These reforms comprised reduction in tariffs, floatation of the Australian dollar and abolition of most foreign exchange controls which increased Australia’s openness to foreign competition. Significant changes started being introduced to Australia’s workplace relations from the 1990s.
These legislative reforms were meant to maintain a strong safety net for workers while at the same time provide a greater flexibility and choice for employers and workers at workplace level. It was until March 2008 that the government of Australia introduced transitional measures that phased out many concrete provisions in the workplace provisions laws (Workplace Relations Act 1996, Workplace Relations Amendment/Work Choices Act 2005 and Workplace Relations Amendment Act 2007). Ideology and work choices.
It should be clearly noted that the prime minister and other members of his government have denied that their policies are not ideological. General philosophy Rather than employers and employees being stuck in an adversarial system, the government wants to put up a system that will allow them to determine their own conditions of working by looking into their common interests. (Andrews 2005b, p. 7). Therefore, a contract between an employee and an employer is seen as a meeting of minds between two partners who are equal and an agreement will only occur when both parties agree with the terms of the contract.
In contrast to the pluralist perspective, the general philosophy fails to recognize that inequality of power is central feature of employment relationship. Role of employees. With this new act, provided the employees (Workers) are given the right leadership, the right incentives and the right opportunities, they will be in a position to work very closely with the management Impact on the parties and the rule making processes. In this section we shall critically look at the impact of that these reforms will have on the major actors in the Australian industrial relations. Role of the state
In the last 20 years, the government of Australia has seen far greater reliance on market forces than state regulation. However, with the national competition policy as a catalyst, both state and federal governments have embraced deregulation of product markets, government owned enterprises have also been privatized and a private-sector management practice is being used in public sector organizations. (Bray et al. 2005) The narrowing of the state regulation can be seen in the shrinking role of awards and the new modest employment protections offered by the Fair Pay of Australia.
Rule making process From chapter 8 of Bray et al. (2005), the four main forms of rule making in Australia are: managerial prerogative, individual contracting, collective bargaining and awards. With the Work Choices act, collective bargaining and award making will decline while managerial prerogative and individual contracting will expand significantly. The reforms here favor employers in many ways. Most employers will be able to gain significant capacity to practice improved bargaining power in their dealings with employees and unions and managerial prerogatives (Bray and Waring 2006).
The changes in rule making have been encouraged as the government members have confirmed that economic success depends on freeing employers and employees from the restrictions of the old system. Awards This act has reduced the number of matters from 20 to 16 and this has helped in simplifying the awards. The award clauses that have been removed relate to: Jury service, long service leave, superannuation and notice of termination. However some federal awards that provide kind entitlements like leave arrangements will not be removed from the awards as they are deemed as preserved award entitlements.
Management The Work Choices act will bring the Australian managerial sector more freedom to manage their businesses as they see fit. This is because there will be less state regulation of the employment relationship and they will not be forced by unions to collectively bargain over wages and working conditions. With this new freedom the Australian managers will be in a position to lead to more efficient enterprises, more jobs and a more competitive national economy.
Many companies will also be capable of pursuing innovation/ quality-enhancement and business strategies. Unions. In chapter six of Bray et al. there is a trace of the historical evolution of unions as a form of employee representation in Australia. It was seen that membership and the power of trade unions had greatly declined from the beginning of the 1990s. This decline was brought about by many reasons. One of them was the increasingly hostile role of management and the impact of government policies that were not sympathetic.
These harsh circumstances may be conducive to attracting new members and stimulated a new collective strength. However strategic differences over the union response to work Choices show great differences in ideologies within the Australian labour movement and the labour movements of other countries. Only time will tell where the union movement will go and what the real outcomes will be. Conclusion. The measures brought about by the Work Choices reforms are far reaching. This is because they represent a major break from the past in many ways.
Firstly, their consequences to the constitution promise to be very big. Secondly, despite the much opposition it has faced, these reforms will help introduce new institutions by spelling an end to those institutions that have dominated Australian industrial institutions for very many years. They will also change the process by which the rules of employment relationships are made in Australia. In addition, market forces, individual contracting and managerial prerogative are going to gain a new ascendancy.
According to Howard’s government and business supporters, these reforms are also inevitable as they are necessary in driving productivity and reducing unemployment and will also guarantee competitiveness. It is also important that any conclusions be left speculative and uncertain since public opinion can fail and political climate can drastically change. References: Andrews, K. (200b) ‘Where do we want workplace relations to be in five years time? ’ speech to Committee for Economic Development of Australia, Federation Square, Melbourne, retrieved on 15th March.
Bray, M and Waring, P (2006) ‘The rise of managerial prerogative under the Howard government’, Australian Bulletin of Labour (in press). Bray, M. and Walsh, P. (1998), ‘Different paths to neo liberalism Comparing Australia and New Zealand’, Industrial Relations, Vol. 37, No. 3. Pp. 358-87. Bray, M. , Deery, S. , Walsh, J. and Waring, P. (2005) Industrial relations, 3rd edn, McGraw-Hill Irwin, Sydney. Plowman, D. and Preston, A. (2005) ‘The new industrial relations: portents for the lowly paid’, Journal of Australian Political Economy, No. 56, Dec, pp. 224-42