Industrial Relations - Centralised vs Decentralised Essay

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Pages: 16

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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According to the Business Council of Australia (BCA), productivity increases as a result of more flexible workplace relations because “it reduces the role of third parties with agendas less linked to productivity gains” (Chaney, 2007).
Free from engagement in complex and drawn out disputes with unions, businesses are able to focus on the job at hand and achieve significant cost savings (Chaney, 2007). Productivity gains can then lead to increased wages and employment opportunities. As a result more people, including women and the semi-skilled, are encouraged to join the workforce (ACCI, 2005).
The BCA cites that, “Unemployment is the lowest in more than three decades. The economy has grown by nearly 4 per cent and days lost to strikes are their lowest in history. Recent Australian Bureau of Statistics data shows real incomes have risen by an average of 10 per cent in the two years to 2005–06, and 34 per cent in the 11 years to 2006–07” (Chaney, 2007).
The recent Rudd government reforms run the risk of returning Australian workplaces to the “us versus them” culture that resulted in high levels of industrial disputation, reduced employment opportunities and pattern-bargaining induced inflation. .. In short, a real possibility of putting Australia ‘s forward momentum back 20 years (Chaney, 2007).

A report appearing in The Australian newspaper (7 May 2008) suggested that an analysis of the Labor Party’s proposed changes to Work Choices prepared