Essays on The Australian Industrial Relations Commission Case Study

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The paper "The Australian Industrial Relations Commission " is a perfect example of a management case study.   Throughout Australian history, the balance between individualism and collectivism in the employer-employee relationship has been arbitrated by highly centralized and state-based industrial tribunals (Barneveld, 2006). These employments related tribunals influence both wages and working conditions through “ awards” . The awards are based working conditions, working hours and the applicable pay rates applicable to particular work in a given industry or occupation. The Australian Industrial Relations Commission (AIRC) is the federal tribunal that sets wages policy through national wage case decisions which are followed normally by state-based industrial tribunals (Waring and Bray, 2006). Collectivism is based on collective bargaining and places its priorities on a group, while individualism places a priority on personal goals and self-actualization rather than a group.

Individualistic societies prioritize their own goals, as counterposed to collectivist model cultures in industrial relations which are especially concerned with relationships. The central concept of the collectivist model in industrial relations is that of collective bargaining. Alexander (2006) defines collective bargaining as a method of fixing the employment terms settling of arising grievances by negotiation between the employer(s) and the union(s).

Flanders (1970) described collective bargaining as a rule-marking process whereby unions are interested in rising wages as well as regulating them in addition to other wider range of issues affecting their members working lives for the purpose of improving and maintaining their working conditions. In Australia, collective bargaining arose because of an imbalance in the powers of employer and that of individual employees during the 19th century (Waring and Bray, 2006). In the 1890s a series of industrial conflicts arose as the employers sought to hire at union rates but with’ freedom to contract’ .

This was meant to deplete unions of their power and eventually replace collective bargaining. Though employers eventually won those disputes, arbitration by the legislature was done to redress the imbalance arising from individual contracting and avoid further damaging conflicts. The collectivist model in Australia Whereas collective bargaining was central in industrial relations in most western countries, in Australia it was interposed with arbitration systems of industrial tribunals. This arbitration and compulsory wage conciliation system arose as a result of industrial confrontations in the early 1890s when trade unions had suffered defeat.

Workers unions sought intervention to protect them from the powerful employers’ onslaught. Protectionists introduced the Conciliation and Arbitration act in 1903 and amended by the minority government that followed, and further amended by the coalition of free traders and the conservative protectionists (Alexander, 2006). Though there were disagreements between major parties, this concept of arbitration had the support of the majority parties. In most states and at the federal level, Australia had a tribunal collectivist model throughout the 20th century that made the key decisions regarding employment terms, conditions and wages.

Particularly in the pre-war period, formal industrial tribunals made settlements for unresolved industrial disputes and mainly set the actual workers wage rates and terms of employment (Waring and Bray, 2006). A shift from collectivism to Individualism Although this system was set up to minimize the need for industrial action, strikes increased, on the contrary, reaching a peak in the 1910s. Thus the system never achieved its goal. Public policy, therefore, sought to change the design of arbitration in the early 1990s by shifting to enterprise bargaining from tribunal-centred wage-fixing collective model to bargaining-centred model.

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