Australian Industrial Relations of collective bargaining outcomes have seen declines in reimbursements, and noteworthy changes in working time measures. Union density has dropped, as also has public sector employment. Systems of conciliation and arbitration have operated nationally within the states of Australia. Multi-employer bargaining systems resulted. Market deregulation generally has led to pressures for labor market deregulation, as Australia struggled to remain internationally competitive. This paper reviews the role of the state in Australian Industrial Relations.
Australian Industrial Relations of collective bargaining coverage too is falling, albeit under a quite different set of circumstances. Let us start with the obvious: Australia is a federation of states and territories. Nolan (1998) has provided a useful perspective of the Australian labor law reforms in the later half of the last decade of previous century. His concept was to undertake Australia as a federation and then state by state analyzing the status, of collective bargaining. Multi-employer awards, procured through conciliation and arbitration, at both federal and state level, were historically the primary forms of wage fixing. In 1990 such awards were estimated to cover some 5,652,200 employees - about 80 per cent of the labor force (McCarry, 1998). At federal level in Australia, enterprise bargaining has been promoted through the Reform Act 1993, amending the Industrial Relations Act 1988 and the Workplace Relations Act 1996. (Patterson, 2001) The 1993 amendment allowed for certified agreements and enterprise flexibility agreements; the Workplace Relations Act restricted the nature of awards and provided for Australian Workplace Agreements. Both certified agreements and Australian Workplace Agreements can be union-free and individual employment contracts.
According to ACIRRT (1999) at this situation level, only New South Wales and Queensland (both underneath industry governments) have promoted legislation painstaking to protect reconciliation and arbitration and multi-employer awards. Victoria has ceded its industrial relations powers to the Federation; Western Australia has adopted a voluntarism system that has spread rapidly (Wallace-Bruce, 1998); Tasmania's move to enterprise level bargaining, with or without unions, began in 1992 (Garnham, 1998); and South Australia is heading down the same path.
The Australian employers were the intended beneficiaries of Australia's Workplace Relations Act. Rimmer (1997, p. 56) predicted that the new legislation would open the possibility for increased individualization of employment regulation, and at the same time would bring intensive legal harassment of unions pursuing their normal activities. As events would show, he was correct on both scores. Management strategy had already been a key factor in falling union density rates in Australia. Peetz (1998), using data from a period immediately prior to the introduction of the Workplace Relations Act, demonstrates that employer strategy to enhance productive efficiency was the most significant influence on union collapse. Where employers saw the award system as failing, they pursued more aggressive anti-union strategies. Where employers sought advice from lawyers, union density fell markedly; a major change with the appointment of new senior management too saw density fall; as did