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Industrial Relations in Australia - Essay Example

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Industrial Relations in Australia

The growth of unions is recognised as being a cyclical process that is also structural and institutional (Griffin & Svenson, 1996). Economic factors affect union density due to the affect on demand for labor. Demographic variables, such as female participation in the workforce, the rise of minority group participation, increased education access and outcomes, population shifts into cities, affect the composition of industries. Theses factors also affect the increase in part-time and casual positions as opposed to the traditional full-time opportunities. There has also been rapid growth in the sectors of industry which are not traditionally have unionism as a focus, for example retail and services, parallel to this there has been a dramatic decrease in the traditional union affiliated industries, such as manufacturing. All these factors combine to affect the structural nature of union density. Finally, laws, their enforcement or lack of (due to low penalties for example) and the type of government in power all affect the institutional nature of union density.
The demand-side model expresses the situation of decreasing union density in economic terms (Wooden, 1999). Workers trade off returns from unions (i.e., wages, benefits, better working conditions and job security) against costs (i.e., dues, rules and potential job insecurity).

2. Role of the Federal Minister of Employment and Workplace Relations
The Department of Employment and Workforce Relations is responsible for delivering to the Government a high standard of advice, programmes and services to achieve more efficient and effective labour market assistance, higher productivity and wages, and to increase workforce participation (Department of Employment and Industrial Relations, 2006). At present, the Honorable John Hockey MP is the Minister of Employment and Workplace Relations. His responsibilities as portfolio Minister includes accountability for all the matters that are covered in the portfolio, such as Cabinet matters, as well as the specific responsibility of maintaining policy issues that relate to employment and or workplace relations (Employment Workplace and Relations Media Centre, 2007). These issues include; the Workplace Relations Act 1996, occupational health and safety, worker's compensation and affirmative action. He is also to take responsibility for institutional arrangements that are undertaken in accordance with the Workplace Relations Act 1996, these include; the Office of the Employment Advocate; the Australian Industrial Relations Commission; and workplace relations reform in industry sectors. Additionally, Minister Hockey has the role of assisting the Prime Minister in Public Service issues.
The Minister can intercede in the public interest of a matter before the Full Bench (of the AIRC) on behalf of the Commonwealth by providing written notice to the Industrial Registrar (S102 (1)) (Commonwealth Consolidated Acts, 2005). Also, Minister Hockey can provide written notice to the Registrar to intervene in public interest in matters before the Australian Industrial Relations Commission when those issues involve public sector employment (S102 (2))( Commonwealth Consolidated Acts, 2005). This reinforces the Minister's commitment to creating more jobs with higher wages, and to ...Show more

Summary

Australian union membership numbers are termed union density. Union density has been seen as in crisis for the past three years (Peetz, 1990). It peaked in 1959 (58%) and was a reported 23% in 2004. In 1996 the Workplace Relations Act (WRA) was introduced and has since made it much more difficult for unions to recruit, due to closed shop workplaces being made illegal and the Australian Workplace Agreements (AWA) being made more popular…
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