Industrial Relations - Centralised vs Decentralised Essay

3950 Words Nov 10th, 2008 16 Pages
The implementing of the Workplace Relations (Work Choices) Amendment Act 2005 (‘Work Choices’) by the federal Coalition government saw the most audacious industrial relations legislation enacted for the Australian community in over a century (Peetz, 2006). It was to be a central plank in the government’s stated aim of reform by decentralizing industrial relations laws in Australia.

The changes were significant and included:
- abolition of the ‘no disadvantage’ test
- abolition of unfair dismissal protections for workers in firms with less than 101 workers
- privileging individual contracts (‘Australian Workplace Agreements’ or AWAs) over collective agreements (CAs),
- restricting the right to undertake collective action
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Flexibility is demonstrated with options to ‘cash out’ sick leave, penalty rates, overtime pay, shift loadings, allowances, redundancy pay and the extra week of annual leave where it exists (ACCI, 2005). Only the five designated protected conditions are immune from such employer/employee negotiation (OAE, 2008).

Certain requirements must be met in order to undertake industrial action under WorkChoices. These requirements are designed to significantly reduce the occurrence of protected industrial action (APH, 2008). The management and resolution of disputes pre-Work Choices 2005 involved a massive commitment of both time and energy to work through the resolution processes (ACCI, 2005).

All workplace agreements contain a dispute-resolution procedure clause. Work Choices makes third party intervention in disputes between employers and employees by the Australian Industrial Relations Commission (AIRC) a last resort, unless industrial action is actually threatened or taking place (APH, 2008). This is said to provide for improved communication and the ability to effectively resolve disputes in the workplace without resorting to a drawn out process involving ‘interested’ third parties. According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, the number of working days lost due to industrial disputes in the June and September quarters 2006 was 53 per cent lower than the equivalent period in a year earlier before

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