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Globalisation and Employment Relations

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Assignment 1: Globalisation and Employment Relations This essay explores the issues around globalisation particularly as they relate to the industrial dispute on the Australian waterfront during 1998; the dispute that became known as the battle that changed the nation (Trinca and Davies, 2000). Globalisation can be thought of us the evolution of large firms becoming world-wide in their scope of operations. These firms are typically driven by the quest for growth and increased profits in the wider markets. Globalisation has also been defined as a combination of freer trade in goods and services and freer movement of capital (Waddington, 1999). Held (1999) defines globalisation as: "a process (or set of processes) which embodies a transformation in the spatial organization of social relations and transactions - assessed in terms of their extensity, intensity, velocity and impact - generating transcontinental or interregional flows and networks of activity, interaction and the exercise of power." Further, three approaches to globalisation are proposed: hyperglobalisation, the sceptical and transformational. Hyperglobalists view globalisation as the end of the traditional nation states with a borderless economy taking their place (Held, 1999). The driving forces behind globalisation are capitalism and new technologies which enable faster, more seamless communication. The hyperglobalist approach views the power of national governments as either eroding or at least declining replaced by more powerful forms of governance (Held, 1999) ...read more.


Negotiations for a new industrial agreement between the MUA and Patricks had been occurring for some time during 1997 however, its employees generally resisted attempts to improve productivity. A major sticking point being Patricks' attempts to introduce annualised salaries at the expense of work arrangements that generated large amounts of overtime (O'Neill, 1998). As an alternative to pursuing industrial reform on the docks there had been various attempts to permit a new entrant to start operations on the docks: the OOCL/COSCO bid to enter the port of Melbourne in 1996; International Purveyors in Cairns in 1997 (O'Neill, 1998). In December 1997 a company called Fynwest began training (former or on leave) Australian Defence Force (ADF) personnel in Dubai. The plan being to train personnel in container port operations and bring them back to work on Australian ports or to train others. Australian Workplace Agreements, a form of employment contract created by the Workplace Relations Act 1996, were entered into by the individuals. The plan to train ADF personnel apparently had the support of the Government. The plan, however was aborted after the MUA made it public after being tipped off about the operation (Petzall, 2000). Patrick continued to try and de-unionise its workforce. A new plan was developed that would see the National Farmers Federation (NFF), who had also developed a keen interest in waterfront reform, form a new stevedoring company called Producers and Consumers Ltd (PC) ...read more.


to resume operations in all ports; Patrick to pay outstanding wages and entitlements; MUA to drop all litigation; Patrick employees to all be employed by Patrick Stevedore Holdings and four labour companies to be wound up. (O'Neill, 1998:2) Peter Reith, The Minister for Workplace Relations and Small Business, claimed that the agreement satisfied a number of the Seven Benchmark Objectives for waterfront reform (AAP, 1998). The seven objectives included: ending overmanning and restrictive work practices; improved productivity; greater reliability; improved safety; lower costs; fuller and more effective use of technology and improved training (Reith, 1998). The Government later conceded that there had been no reduction in costs to users of the waterfront (Petzall, 2000). Patrick Stevedores emeged from the dispute relatively unscathed (Petzall, 2000). For employers generally the dispute highlights that there is no such thing as a shortcut to improving work practices and productivity. The dispute was also a key test of the union restructuring of the 1980's and 1990's. The formation of approximately 20 large unions was strongly supported for the very purpose of being able to respond to a hostile employer-government alliance (O'Neill, 1998:2). By most accounts the MUA won a defensive victory. The union was not destroyed and the possibility of effective working class solidarity was very apparent. The Secondary boycott provisions proving ineffective against power of peaceful pickets. However it could only be considered a partial victory given the number of concessions made by the union. ...read more.

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