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Analyse the impact of the workplace relations act 1996 on Australian employment relations.

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Introduction

ANALYSE THE IMPACT OF THE WORKPLACE RELATIONS ACT 1996 ON AUSTRALIAN EMPLOYMENT RELATIONS Employment Relations (ER) is the dynamic process which involves the interaction and total relationship between employees and employers in the workplace. The aim of ER is to avoid disputation in the workplace by creating a stable & productive working environment for all employers & employees. This is done so by managing the relationship between the employer & employee effectively so as to develop competent, flexible & productive employees committed to the organisation. Over the past several decades there have been considerable modifications to the way in which ER is required to be carried out in the workplace. These include the Prices and Incomes Accord and subsequent amendments (Accord Mark II - VIII) [Hawke & Keating Governments]. However, the development concerning ER that has had the most significant impact on people's work lives in Australia is the statute known as the Workplace Relations Act 1996 (WRA). The WRA signifies the end of the Accord, the Structural Efficiency Principle (SEP) and a very centralised approach to ER. The WRA was implemented in order to internationalise and globalise the Australian economy as Australia had developed serious problems with large current account deficits, growing foreign debt and an unstable dollar. This required businesses to increase efficiency, effectiveness and productivity. ...read more.

Middle

This is evident through the growing feminisation of the workforce at present. The WRA has decreased the influence trade unions have on employees as the roles and responsibilities of trade unions have been significantly reduced. 'Closed shops' are now illegal, industrial action (striking, bans, go-slows) is only permitted during a protected bargaining period, and it is no longer mandatory to negotiate CAs or AWAs with unions. There is now no obligation to join a trade union, and employers are forbidden to discriminate against union and non-union employees (freedom of association). As a result, unnecessary demarcation disputes have been significantly reduced, creating more efficient workers. Current figures show trade unionism is declining. The mass introduction of enterprise agreements has greatly encouraged high industrial democracy. This allows for the greater recognition of individual performance through individualism and self regulation, as well as the ability to be involved in profit sharing schemes (just as Kennard's Hire did last year with its employees, as well as when the Commonwealth Bank issued $100 million worth of shares to its employees from 1996 to 1999). The increased amount of AWAs processed also denotes more interaction with the Employment Advocate (EA). Positive changes in workplace moral can be easily distinguished as problems can be aired and the power relationship between employees and employers is modified. ...read more.

Conclusion

The WRA separated workers into three streams for the purpose of employment contracts: 1. Award system (those with little bargaining power) 2. AWAs (independently negotiate with employer) 3. CAs (negotiated through union via collective bargaining) To some extent, the WRA leads to a wage increase differentiation between workers covered under the award system with little bargaining power (eg cleaners) and those covered by enterprise agreements (EAs). Those covered by EAs have more bargaining power, and are thus able to negotiate more superior wage increases (often by several percent). They also have the potential to gain better conditions as those in stream 1 (above) are now affected by asset stripping (can hold only '20 allowable matters' - simpler for employees, but a reduction from when the centralised system was in place). The move to a more decentralised ER format threatens the job security of employees. Many redundancies and sackings have resulted from businesses restructuring and flattening or completely removing hierarchies through downsizing and outsourcing. This is noticeably evident during the 1998 Waterfront issue, as well as when the Portland's Avoca Smelter cut its workforce by 50% when it introduced enterprise agreements. The Workplace Relations Act 1996 is a development in employment relations which has had the most significant impact on people's work lives in Australia. Employers and businesses have been able to competently handle the changes brought forth by it. Never before has one development or statute concerning employment relations and business law directly affected so many individuals' work lives so rapidly. ...read more.

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