The role of trade unions in organizations-a case study of AustraliaIntroduction According to Silver (2003, p. 23) trade union is any organization that is formed by a group of workers with an aim of attaining certain goals. In Australian, it is possible for trade unions to attain the legal entity status also called collective bargaining over not only working hours and wages but also employment conditions and terms (Dabscheck, 1995, p. 11). This means that the aforementioned are not unilaterally agreed upon by the management but set by all the parties involved.
Nonetheless, in most situations trade unions lack the rights an aspect that can make workers to resort to collective actions such as strikes with an aim of pressuring their respective employees to a mandate that could make them negotiate with their employers with an aim of not only improving their working conditions but also their wages. In the aforementioned situations, the trade unions have particular legal rights such as negotiating with the employers. This essay will critically examine the role of trade unions in the contemporary employment relations in Australia.
It will further examine employment relations and human resource management in Australia and challenges that have set ground for union role or intervention. Background for the establishment of trade unions Trade union movement flourished in Australia during the 20th century. For instance between 1920 and 1980, the membership doubled (Griffin & Svensen, 1998). However, Teicher & Svensen (1998, p. 21) point out that the status and power were derived from arbitration and centralized conciliation system in 1901. The key challenges that resulted into formation of trade unions included poor working conditions, poor wages and the need for employees’ recognition and the mentioned challenges have also been experienced in the 21st century (Munck, 2004, p.
250). Even though, the centralized system seemed to deliver the aforementioned, union officials saw the need of establishing arbitral strategies for the purpose of realizing their goals. The next section will discuss the role of trade unions in contemporary employment relations in Australia and the role of government and other stakeholders in addressing the mentioned challenges. The role of trade unions, government, employers and other stakeholders in the contemporary employment relations in Australia According to Benson (1998, p.
45) trade unions apply their organizational strength in advocating for legislation and social policies to the workers or their members in general. Australian Trade Union has a history dating back to 200 years when the convicts started fighting over living and working conditions (Lansbury, 1990, p. 51). However, over the past years, the workers have demanded for accident compensation, superannuation and maternity leave. Additionally, the trade unions did not only fight for better working conditions for the workers but also represented the employees in a number of trade negotiations and industrial disputes, thus trade unions have been essential part of Australian industrial relation systems (Munck, 2004, p.
252). There have been very prospects of trade unionism in Australia, one of them being workplace reforms. According to Hawke & Wooden (1998, p. 75) workplace issues has been key political and economic debate in Australia. The Labor Party which had been in power from 1983 to 1996, sought to establish change via a formal accord with various Australian union movements (Lansbury, 1990, p.
53). In the accord, the trade unions reached an agreement to moderate the wage demands that were presented by their members. However, Dabscheck, (1995, p. 34) argues that with the help of the trade unions, the existing government also started to embrace labor market reforms. Some of the reforms were employment relation system decentralization. However, the key change started in 1996 when the liberal-national coalition government came into power and it was led by John Howard (Fox, Howard & Pittard, 1995, p. 56). Even though the government did not destroy the arbitration system of the country it changed the Australian employment relations from its collectivist traditions.
As a result there was the arbitration system and the unions were fragmented and in place there was individual bargaining between employers and the employees (Lansbury, 1990, p. 54).