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Management Essay: Changing Powers of Australian Trade Unions


Task: For this assignment you are required to write a management essay on the topic “Describe the changes in trade unions’ power in Australia between 1996 and 2020 (i.e. compare major changes in their power during this period, not only in these two years). How is their current power different from trade unions in any two nations (other than China) discussed in the unit? You only need to refer to the Federal ER system in Australia”.


The study ofKnez, Zevnik, andObrecht (2019) considered in this management essay signifies that Australia, which was a former colony of majority-white settlers from the British Empire would gradually evolve into a successful industrial capitalist country with a self-governing federal-state system and a parliamentary political system. The aim of the report is to look at how the management of people and organization should take place by looking closely at the changing powers of trade unions in Australia from 1996 to 2020. According to Holgate, Simms, & Tapia (2018), Australia's success behind the rapid industrialization and development is intrinsically connected to the strong presence of labor party and well-functioning and systematic arrangement of employment relation systems at the state and federal levels. As noted by Ibsen, & Tapia (2017), there were many variations of these ideals as if came to the indigenous culture of the country but a common thread of rejecting the traditional viewpoint of liberalism wherein the role of the state should be limited in its operation to grant more liberation and freedom to the individual. The tradition of unionism in former colonies like Australia, New Zealand, and India has long roots in the history of colonialism and imperialism.

Main Body
The Development of Trade Unions and Employment Relation in Australia and Asia

The initial form of union activity was seen amongst the class of skilled artisans and employees and not amongst laboring classes. As most of these initial unions that developed around a particular skill set were highly localized, these did not have an inherently national streak to them. These were mainly unions of male workers, craftsmen, and the semi-skilled who organized themselves into societies from a distance from Britain, which strengthened their local bargaining power and aided in their development from the gold rushes of the 1850s, and helped build up a considerable colonial economy. However, from the late 1990s, there has been observed a trend in the deterioration of union power and membership in Australia. After the post-war era, there were increasing trends notices in two specific ideas- which are trade unionism and union industrialism. As along 1960s and 1970s the labor movement grew increasingly closer to indigenous communities and their assimilation into the industries, Bob Hawke, the prime minister of Australia along with Keating in the 1990s would attempt to curb the activism of trade unions. The grievances of the employees would spill over from the early 2000 which would lead to the victory of Howard in 2007. According to Holgate, Simms, & Tapia (2018), Comparatively, the trade unions of India and Indonesia are still struggling to properly organize themselves independently from the overbearing role of the state and political fragmentation. The formal political relations in Indonesia have undergone recent changes which include a fundamental transformation of the institutions and have made it possible for better communication regarding employment relations to take place. Indonesia has suffered through a process of deregulation. As viewed by Howell (2020), employment opportunities, good working conditions and income generation capacity have expanded. Contemporary labor regulations are restrictive between workers and there are faulty conflict resolution system and lack of social Security and the rate of child labor still needs to be brought down. Regulations in labor laws should be such that it helps in the betterment of the laborer and develops as well as fortified employee-manager relationship while fostering better employment opportunities. There is still a radical form of ER followed in Indonesia which needs to be reformed.

In India's case, major developments in the 1990s of economic reforms Employment Relations (ER) is one of the led to economic growth and liberalization and expansion of labor laws. A large agricultural rural sector was transformed into an informal sector where unions and bargaining are rare. As noted by Ibsen, & Tapia (2017), trade union membership is low apart from certain regions where it is higher and there are weak laws regarding trade union recognition and poor representation of labor laws and enforcement. The labor administration and judiciary lack professional skills and accountability that would help their discretionary power thus there must be built a professional group of people who are impassioned to carry out these duties and obligations. As viewed by Knez, Zevnik, &Obrecht (2019), improvements to the conflict resolution aspect of the employment relationship also need to be upgraded and there should be a more active dialogue between trade unions and workers and though in paper there is a more pluralist approach it needs to be more practised. In Australia, a mix of Unitarist and Pluralist is at work. As viewed by Frenkel (2020), most of the existing trade unions are fragmented into factions and segregated not only along religious and class lines but also caste lines. Several well known unions like AITUC, HMS and INTUC need to upgrade their current working format to better integrated the developed policies and ideas that are widely accepted globally. These are the unions that the state would often work together and ask for consultation on matters of agriculture and labour.

The Development of Employment Relation in Australia
There are four predominant viewpoints on the theory of employment relations which include Marxist, Radical,Pluralist and Unitarist. Marxist viewpoint deals with a socioeconomic explanation and analysis of employment relationship. Radical deals with a self-centered view where apart from legal duties of the company they are not responsible for the welfare of their workers. Pluralist is a system where trade unions and other organizations dealing with the socioeconomic matters of employees are empowered. Unitarist is a viewpoint where mutual reciprocation of benefits and duties happen. In Australia the Pluralist and Unitarist theories are more applicable. As viewed by Howell (2020), therefore any organization must have a suitable employee relationship management system in place. In the context of Australia, its industrial sector has undergone a tremendous change in the legal framework and the member ship density was recorded 64% of the workforce in 1954 to a steady decline in density by the first half of 20th century. It was 18.9% by 2007, and there was an increase in non-traditional forms of employment and the industrial environment began to be deregulated that adversely affected the state. As noted by Rawling, & Schofield-Georgeson (2018), all of these happened because most of Australia's employed population works in differentiated services, and the remaining percentage work in manufacturing and construction. Australia's economy largely depends on mining and agriculture industries. The main trend in the type of employment during the 1990s was part-time or casual jobs in non-standard employment like temporary jobs, outsourcing, intermediate agencies, and labor market sources. In the year 1996, Liberal-National which was a coalition headed by Howard introduced the Workplace Relations Act (WRA) that restricted the reach of the AIRC (Australian Industrial Relations Commission) and made the AWA or Australian Workplace Agreement possible which would be later amended in 2005. As the Work Choices were so deeply unpopular, in 2007 the 'Yours Right At Work' organized by ACTU (Australian Council of Trade Union), a campaign that was successful in bringing about another transition which was passes in 2009 as the Fair Work Act where the following points are ensured but are not limited to safeguarding the responsibility and obligations expected from both the employees and the employers. Flexibility of work hours would be maintained and measures will be taken to protect the employees from unlawful or unfair termination of their jobs or appointments. There would be clear communication from both end. Minimum wage and working hours would be stipulated and the right to terminate any relationship with a third party member is also given. From 2009 onwards the federal law of relying predominantly on the Commonwealth was reformed in a series of small amendments. In 2017 and 2018 federal laws had been introduced to make the workplace environment more safe. Recently the trade unions are slowly being empowered and that can be seen through the reforms made to Fair Work where in 2020 provisions for unpaid leave and extension of leaves were guranteed and Corona relief funds as well as many other economic relief sanctions were safeguarded by the unions.

Particular minimum conditions have to be followed by the employees that are provided by the 10 National Employment Standards (NES) (Farnham, 2017). Fair Work Commission oversees everything Frenkel(2020). By 2020, laws are put in place to ensure that minimum pay of the employees is met, workplace surveillance policies, anti-harassment and anti-bullying policies are to be inculcated in the training of employees and the management and are legally enforced. In contrast, as noted by Ibsen, & Tapia (2017), in Asia and particularly in South East Asia, employee relations are marked by great inequality though there are pockets of dynamism as well. According to Suder (2018), countries like Brunei and Singapore are wealthy and have a good standard of ER and employee management but there are great discrepancies in the ER regulations in Cambodia, Laos, Indonesia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Vietnam, and Thailand. Even the regional disparity of labor market context is great between different Asian Tiger economies and other low- to middle-class income-led countries who try their best to follow export-oriented production-led development strategy that is followed in East Asia the internal differentiation in the labor market organizations of these countries tend to a differentiated context of ER (Lee, Sek-Hong, & Lansbury, 2019) Ways in Which Statutory Regulations are Related to Employment Relation

As noted by Rawling, & Schofield-Georgeson (2018), the impact of statutory regulations of employee relations such as the many obligations and duties of the contract of employment, bargaining of payment and benefits ensured and articulated by the management, conflict resolution, and disciplinary measures have all been clearly defined and put down on contracts and before the employee and the employer enter into a professional relationship and all of it legally sanctified and enforced which has reduced anxiety regarding minimum wage, hours of work, health and safety benefits and the likes (Lee, Sek-Hong, & Lansbury, 2019). In Australia, certain unions have been the key to these changes. As viewed by McAlpine& Roberts (2017), there was a push for economic reform during the Labor Government in the latter half of 20th century and many laws and regulations were put in place to strengthen the structure of Australian economic system. This would further be developed by the Accord that fixed wage-fixing system that used to dominate the industrial relationship in Australia. In the age of Liberal Government run by Howard, a need was felt to develop industrial relations in a way that would reduce the power of trade unions in Australia and the AWA. After that when the Howard Liberal government won Work Choices was widely popularized (Farnham, 2017). According to Holgate, Simms, & Tapia (2018), slowly but gradually, ACTU is working to rebuild the power of unions and increase the density of membership. According to ABS in 2013, there were 1.7 million active members in trade unions.

Management of Rights, Obligations, and Expectations
As viewed by Knez, Zevnik&Obrecht (2019),Rawling& Schofield-Georgeson (2018), the growing economic literature on the many aspects of Employment relationships has enabled the formulations of obligation and expectations of employer and management, employees and trade unions, and the limitation of the role of the state to be clearly defined in most cases and reformulated in some others. According to Suder (2018), the business contracts are forged on the promise of reciprocity and the acknowledgement of the parties to pay and work for one another according to the stipulations in the contract. Core employees provide stability to organizations, and the flexibility of peripheral employees provides organizations with the necessary capacity to expand their employee base and function on different levels of connectivity and regulations. Considerations for those looking for part-time, or temporary jobs increase the pool of skillset employed and the number of employees who might not be looking for long term contracts (Farnham, 2017). The proper structure of payment and employment relationships would help in reducing conflicts and confusion. The working conditions, proper employee motivation is ensured in the workplace.

As Australia gradually developed a better institutional framework to accommodate the various concerns and grievances of the employees the better it was for the employer and management to understand clear boundaries and enforce them accordingly (Lee, Sek-Hong & Lansbury, 2019). As the employees are taught about their duties and obligations according to the contract they undertook and told of the laws and regulations that ensure the safety and security of their job, the employees are empowered to manage their expectations and formulate their goals and aim to work for the company or organization according to the contract they have entered in. As the role of the state is debated and is continually reformulated it helps keep the bureaucracy fresh and up to date. As viewed by McAlpine& Roberts (2017), the renewal of interest in trade union and power in the last few years will go only to establish healthy outlets for political and economic demands of employees and make it possible for the proper redressal of their problems. Strengthening unions would also give marginalized communities of workers and temporary as well migrant workers a platform to properly articulate their demands and be heard. As Southeast Asian countries still struggle to find a proper balance in their employment relation like East Asia has managed, organizations should look at the development of Australia's employment relation to understand how properly the labor market should be utilized and how to empower organizations that oversee it.

Farnham, D. (2017). The changing faces of employment relations: Global, comparative and theoretical perspectives. Palgrave, Macmillan Education.

Frenkel, S. J. (Ed.). (2020). Organized labor in the Asia-Pacific region: A comparative study of trade unionism in nine countries. Cornell University Press.

Holgate, J., Simms, M., & Tapia, M. (2018).The limitations of the theory and practice of mobilization in trade union organizing. Economic and Industrial Democracy, 39(4), 599-616.

Howell, C. (2020). Rethinking the role of the state in employment relations for a neoliberal era.ILR Review, 0019793920904663.

Ibsen, C. L., & Tapia, M. (2017). Trade union revitalisation: Where are we now? Where to next?. Journal of Industrial Relations, 59(2), 170-191.

Knez, M., Zevnik, G. K., &Obrecht, M. (2019).A review of available chargers for electric vehicles: United States of America, European Union, and Asia. Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews, 109, 284-293.

Lee, B. H., Sek-Hong, N., & Lansbury, R. D. (Eds.). (2019). Trade Unions and Labour Movements in the Asia-Pacific Region. Routledge.

McAlpine, K., & Roberts, S. (2017). The future of trade unions in Australia.Chris White Online.

Rawling, M., & Schofield-Georgeson, E. (2018).Industrial legislation in Australia in 2017. Journal of Industrial Relations, 60(3), 378-396.

Suder, G. (2018). The business case for a free trade agreement between the European Union and Australia. Australian Journal of International Affairs, 72(3), 272-286.


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