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Running head: ADVANCED STUDIES IN INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS

Advanced Studies in Industrial Relations

ADVANCED STUDIES IN INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS

Advanced Studies in Industrial Relations


Industrial relations in Australia have encountered significant transformations in recent
years. In Australia, the States, as well as the Federal Government hold parallel powers, which
create a situation that fashioned a regulatory backdrop typified by long-standing pressures
between jurisdictions. Consequently, the Australian industrial relations system has continuously
been many-sided, involving Federal and State and occasionally industry-based policies as well as
a superfluity of unofficial workplace provisions. However, each concern that takes place in
industrial relations is deliberated and determined in a distinct jurisdiction. The spatially placed
and balanced social practices regarding industrial relations laws should as a result be understood
in the perspective of the shifting account of the interactions among jurisdictions (Arup, 2001).
The growth of the industrial relations system in Australia should be understood as structured
traditionally in three segments. First, as a deliberated reconciliation of the differing interests of
labor and capital in the Keynesian Settlement, secondly as a hybrid framework projected to
enhance flexibility, while at the same time preserving distributional equity. In the third segment,
as an individualized, as well as a localized structure biased in support of capital. This paper will
explore the whether the Australian industrial relations are over-governed by the State. This paper
will provide an overview of the Australian industrial relations, explore the pertinent theories
involved, and present recommendations for advancement in the role that the State plays in
regulating industrial relations.

ADVANCED STUDIES IN INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS

Overview of the Australian Industrial Relations


Since Federation, the structure of industrial relations in Australia has inclined in the
direction of the national scale. In this perspective, bipartisan political endorsement for
national regulation has continuously mirrored an awareness of the ineffectiveness of
duplication, as well as an apparent necessity to align the level of labor regulation with the
national level of macro-economic, as well as social security regulation. Shifting power
relations in the industrial relations arena mirror an increasingly extensive inclination to
power centralization at the national level. The characteristic attributes of the shifting phases
are reviewed in appendices 1. It should be noted that in every phase, legislative structures
have been underscored by diverse heads of power, as well as diverse strategies of growth,
which entail Keynesian Australian settlement, hybrid quasi-Corporatist, as well as the neoliberal level. These phases distinguish the shifting status of the labor market in the
Australian national economy, as well as the shifting status of the Australian national
economy in regard to the global economy (Brown, Bryson & Whitfield, 2009).
According to Dundon and Rollinson (2004), in the early twentieth century, Australias
distinct and increasingly interventionist system grew as the central re-distributive system of the
nations policy of accumulation. This consequently distinguished it from the industrial relations
milieu in other economies in the West. The central driving force of the reforms entails both
deregulation, and de-collectivization by means of the intentional elimination of collective
bargaining in and outside the workplace. Consequently, these shifts ought to be construed as an
expansion of federal power, instead of as the decentralization of accountability to the workplace.
According to Mack (2005), a free and decentralized market economy needs the involvement of a
powerful state. In this context, it is evident that the reforms have eradicated the re-distributive

ADVANCED STUDIES IN INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS

role granted to wages guidelines in the Australian Settlement and as a result led to increased
wage disparities, as well as waning employment security.
Restructured State Involvement in Industrial Relations
In restructuring the power relations among the state, the employers, and the union
movement, the reforms threaten the regional States sovereignty. It is usually evident in
Australia, taking into consideration the formation of its electoral, as well as parliamentary
systems, that State administrations normally present political challenges to the national
government. This structure is normally defended on the grounds that it presents a level of
political stability through acting as a safeguard against drastic changes at either level. In this
perspective, a majority of States maintain vital powers over, as well as significance in the
industrial relations (Ewing, 2003). This is exemplified in the hostility to the Federal extension
under the Workchoices reforms, which were perceived as States rights, and a workers rights
matter. It should be noted that the States in 2006, came together in a High Court to dispute the
constitutionality of utilization of the corporations power in the reforms. While this strategy was
unsuccessful other strategies are emerging, for instance, in a demonstration of collaboration, the
States have endorsed a corporatist accord with the leading stakeholders in the manufacturing
industry, as well as unions. In this context the State Government of Victoria supported the
introduction of legislation that would focus on human rights concerns, and also would safeguard
the right of employees in Victoria to join unions (Bray & Waring, 2006).
According to Brown, Bryson and Whitfield, (2009), challenging the Workchoices reforms
is essential for the States since Federal empowerment as stipulated in the corporations power
generates a precedent that might undercut the States jurisdictions in an extensive diversity of
regulatory functions. On the other hand, the level of Federal empowerment is ambiguous,

ADVANCED STUDIES IN INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS

although the High Court discarded a narrow perception of the corporations power, which would
lead to the restriction of its application to trading dealings, it requires embracing a wide-ranging
interpretation where any or all dealings of a corporation are to be regulated. Langille (2001)
asserts that, the corporations power cannot be employed as the foundation for universal labor
regulations, for example the establishment of minimum wages, since it applies solely to
corporations or individuals engaged in dealings with corporations. Since the Australian Council
of Trade Unions (ACTU) continues to seek guidance from State-level intermediaries for these
segments of the labor force, a form of State-level mediation will continue existing in the
Australian industrial relations.
Restructuring Industrial Relations
According to Deery (2001), the Workchoices reforms underpin a trajectory of employee
disempowerment that corroborates Australias latest market accumulation strategy, as well as the
corporation-based shift in Commonwealth power. The ACTUs authority to operate in the
industrial, as well as the political field was enhanced by the Accord, which also increased its
authority as compared with individual unions. The real wage reductions as stipulated in the
Accord destabilized advocacy for unionism, subdued workplace activism, in addition to
accelerating the decline in union membership. However, the new reforms have currently also
subdued the ACTU, in addition to exposing its power as an object of the regulatory system. Arup
(2001) that, the introduction of official bargaining at the workplace and enterprise levels has in
effect lessened the degree of unofficial, collaborative deliberations that take place in workplaces.
There is growing proof that Workchoices bears a negative influence on productivity as the
absence of the workers voice hampers innovation, and as workers waning sense of reciprocal
obligation jeopardizes organization capability to manage efficiently. The latest structure

ADVANCED STUDIES IN INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS

generates a stimulus for labor organization at the workplace level, where the feasibility of
enterprise-level negotiation supports the development of one-union sites, as well as organizationbased unions. The altered conditions are stirring unions to engage their constituencies, as well as
to decisively generate independence from State institutions with the intention that in the future
their influence will be less dependent on institutional acknowledgment.
Australian Unions in the Perspective of Theory
In addressing the rationale of unions, there is a prevalent theme in every theoretical
premise. According to Boxall and Purcell (2003), unions survive to safeguard the rights of wage
earners, in addition to securing or advancing their wellbeing. In this context, a core goal is to
safeguard better living standards for wage earners, where unions endeavor to realize this goal by
means of wide-ranging diversity of activities that entail service, industrial, solidarity, as well as
political action. Economic unionists posit that unions should limit their activities to sectional
interests, which include service and industrial activities in relation to the wage-earning groups
they represent. In this perspective, the unions should realize that political and social activities are
of assistance, but should be derived from job consciousness. According to Bray and Waring
(2006), every theoretical premise sustains the perception that unionisms existence is premised
on an articulation of power relations in the workplace, in addition to the wider society. In this
regard it should be noted that, in building an ideology upon a democratic structure, it is
imperative to address and understand this process for workers. This concurs with the radical and
political union perception that wage earners are a collection of individuals, but not cognizant of
their interests with regard to interests of other groups, but once instilled with awareness, it
assumes a political nature. In economic unionism, the employer is perceived as an essential
partner to accomplish the demands of workers, consequently the rival becomes the workers in

ADVANCED STUDIES IN INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS

other industries or workstations. Revolutionary theory argues that the workforce, as well as
peasants ought to be partners in ousting the proprietors of the means of production. To safeguard
employees from employer influence, however, the genuine authority of unions is political action
rather than industrial action. Political unionists identify capital and the state as opponents, where
more prominently, the foundation of the conflict is the domination of state and capital. As unions
endeavor to redefine the factual interests of its membership, conflict takes place over the
politicization of economic activities. The critical objective for unions is to control the macrolevel policy in support of the workers. In reviewing theory, it is essential to note that there are
problems related to industrial democracy, as well as state control in the Australian setting.
According to Teicher (2004), attempts by Australian administration to democratize industrial
relations were inadequate, and in its place eventually destabilized union representation. An
employee uprising to dominate the state is not forthcoming. In this context, there is confirmation,
however, that Australian unions have engaged in political and economic unionism during the
previous decade.
Recommendations
It is evident from the discussion in this paper that there is a continuing structural change
in industrial relations in Australia. In view of these dynamics, this paper recommends that labor
market regulations, as well as industrial relations milieu inexorably require to periodically
change. These changes ought to be increasingly skewed towards the enterprise and labor force in
negotiation concerning appropriate wages, as well as productivity outcomes, instead of the
Government requiring adjusting laws to induce specific outcomes. The Australian administration
ought to engage in industrial relations with the sole rationale of ensuring justice, safety, in
addition to other requisite minimum conditions, as well as to engage as an arbitrator when

ADVANCED STUDIES IN INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS

industrial related disputes take place. It is apparent that this is the low point in the Australian
industrial relations system.
It is evident that unions continue adopting strategy in a reactionary approach to the
external milieu. This paper recommends that union research should be conducted in an approach
that evaluates the pertinent theories in order to generate a balanced practice where theory drives
subsequent studies. The political and economic dichotomy has persistently been applied to
various unions. It should be understood that unions are dynamic entities, and consequently in
exploring the state of trade unionism, it is advisable that theory must not be regarded as more
significant than practice, since theory requires to be persistently created from practice.

Conclusion
Diverse regulatory systems generate dissimilar policies and change the practices of
employees, unions, as well as the labor force. It is imperative to mention that these are entwined,
in a way that turmoil in regulating the labor market is a basis and a consequence of shifting
systems, as well as altering power relations in the labor market, as well as economy. Given that
rescaling processes are fashioned spatially, alterations in regulation, as well as its associated
practices generate shifts in the constitution, as well as articulation of industrial relations. This
paper has demonstrated the revolutionary shift in the Australian industrial relations setting as a
multifaceted as well as incongruous process where the national government has engaged new
power sources to extort power from the regional States, with an intention to decentralize
industrial relations activities to the workplace level. These shifts are justifiable as an essential
result of globalization and understood as articulating neo-liberal policy situations on the
Australian economy.

ADVANCED STUDIES IN INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS

References
Arup, K. (2001). Labor Law as Regulation: Promise and Pitfalls. Australian Journal of Labor
Law, 25, 23 -38.
Boxall, P. & Purcell, J. (2003). Strategy & Human Resource Management. Basingstoke:
Palgrave Macmillan.
Bray, M. & Waring, P. (2006). The Rise of Managerial Prerogative under the Howard
Government. Australian Bulletin of Labor, 12, 72-98.
Brown, W., Bryson, J, & Whitfield, K. (2009). The Evolution of the Modern Workplace.
Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Deery, S. (2001). Industrial Relations: A Contemporary Analysis. Sydney: McGraw-HillAustralia.
Dundon, T., & Rollinson, D. (2004). Employment Relations in Non-union Firms. London:
Routledge.
Ewing, K. (2003). Labor Law & Industrial Relations: Industrial Relations in Transition. Oxford:
Oxford University Press.
Langille, B. (2001). Freedom of Association & the Effective Recognition of the Right to
Collective Bargaining: A Reflection upon our Fundamental Commitments. Geneva:
International Labor Office.
Mack, A. (2005). Class Ideology & Australian Industrial Relations. Journal of Australian
Political Economy, 56, 59.
Teicher, J. (2004). Industrial Relations & the Law: The New Industrial Relations. Labor &
Industry, 25, 61.

ADVANCED STUDIES IN INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS


Appendix
Appendices 1
Australias Shifting Industrial Relations Regulation

Source: (Brown, Bryson & Whitfield, 2009).

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