Australian Industrial Relations Reforms 2005

Essay by ben880 May 2006

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The current Howard government has been implementing a new system of workplace relations since the first of its nine years in running this country. In 1996, the Howard government introduced the Workplace Relations Act resulting in wages and working conditions becoming linked to productivity, and were negotiated at an industry or enterprise level, either by unions or individuals. Now nine years later (from the first of July 2005) Howard has the power of the Senate and thus proposes to update the current Industrial Relations System in what he plans will "secure the future for Australian workers and their families".

Rather than six separate workplace relations systems, the new legislation will introduce a single national system of workplace relations. The Australian Fair Pay Commission will be established to protect employees in the bargaining process and to better protect the minimum and award classification wages. The Australian Industrial Relations Commission is therefore able to focus on dispute resolution and further simplification of the awards scheme.

While the Unfair Dismissal laws will be abolished under the proposed legislation, there will still be protection against Unlawful Determination. The impacts of these changes on the Australian economy can only be speculated, however the stances taken by the Government and the Trade Unions divulge to some extent, the effects this legislation will have on the economy.

The Howard government's position on the proposed changes looks to decentralised wage determination, incentive for increased productivity, keeping a consistently positive growth rate, and job creation thus keeping the unemployment rate low and the participation rate high.

In a decentralised system, wages and working conditions are determined at an industry or enterprise level through direct negotiation between employers and employees, rather than a union representing a mass of people in order to receive a wage increase. Direct negotiation means wages...