The paper "Australian Workplace Agreement, Female Workers and Enterprise Bargaining" is a great example of a business case study. Changes in the labour law and management practices have led a trend towards individualism and union exclusion (Waring, 291-318). The main influence of this trend was the Australian Workplace Relations Act 1996. This was a major move made by the federal government to shift towards less collectivised unions. Since the introduction of the WR Act, the number of industrial disputes has dropped to record low levels, and the nature of industrial action has become less dramatic. Enterprise Bargaining The growth of individualised employment has left little scope for collective arrangements and assuming little need for collective bargaining (Guest & Hoque, 112-20).
Before the rise of individualised contracts, disputes were mostly handled by the unions and employers. The union would organise activities such as strikes and lockouts in attempt to improve work pay and conditions. These types of extreme industrial actions are costly in both human and economic terms (Hyman, 89; Leo, 102). Now employees are cutting out the third party and engaging in non-union agreements directly with the employer. Enterprise agreements have gained much significance over the past decade as employment relations have come to focus more at the local workplace level (Macdonald, 1-25).
The rise of human resource management has seen a greater focus on individualising tasks and decentralising the management approach. These factors create the potential for greater diversity in employment benefits and may lead to an improvement in employment conditions (Champ, 46; Macdonald et al. , 1-25). Benefits can include various forms of parental leave and caring leave, salary packaging, bereavement leave, career break scheme, work from home/telecommuting and a range of other benefits (Champ, 46). Australian Workplace Agreement (AWA) An AWA is a printed agreement between an employer and an employee about the requisites and terms of service.
AWAs can be negotiated with a group of employees but must be signed by each employee who agrees to the term of the AWA (Gollan, 44). Once an AWA is in operation, it totally displaces an existing award or collective bargaining agreement. Although the AWA sounds good in theory, many have argued the practicality of it. The employment Advocate will endorse an AWA if it passes a 'no disadvantage' test.
The 'no disadvantage' assessment is measured against the applicable award, and not the current applicable industrial means such as an enterprise bargaining agreement. As pointed out by Richards (Richards, 15-16), since the introduction of the WR Act in 1996, federal awards have been reduced to a basic set of wages and conditions known as a 'safety net'. Thus, an AWA can, therefore, contain significantly fewer wages and conditions than the prevailing collective agreement, but still, pass the 'no disadvantage' test. Harley and Milner (Harley & Milner, 17-19) suggest that policies like the AWA can help employees achieve a better working environment and wage conditions.
However, the process needs to be undertaken with care, as there are many cases where newly-introduced agreements are not as effective and well as the participants had hoped. Richards (15-16) stated that 27% of the AWAs under examination contained no provision for a wage increase during the life of the agreement.
Australian Centre for Industrial Relations Research and Teaching (ACIRRT) (1998) Agreements Database and Monitor (ADAMN). ACIRRT, University of Sydney
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Gollan, P. (2004). Formalised Individual Agreements in Australia. Employee Relations, 26(1/2), 44.
Guest, D., & Hoque, K. (2002). Human Resource Management and Industrial Relations. Oxford: Oxford University Press. 112-20
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Harley, G., & Milner, A. (1994). The Ins and Outs of Enterprise Bargaining. Australian Accountant, 64(8), 17-19.
Hyman, R. (1989). Strikes. London: Macmillan. p89
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Strachan, G., & Burgess, J. (1998). Towards a New Deal for Women Workers in Australia? Growing Employment Share, Enterprise Bargaining and the "family friendly" Workplace. Equal Opportunities International, 17(8), 1-14.
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Wooden, M. (2000). Industrial Relations Reform. Review- Institute of Public Affairs, 52(3), 14-16.
Wooden, M. (2001). Union Wage Effects in the Presence of Enterprise Bargaining. Economic Record, 77(236), 1-19.