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Industrial Relations in Australia Since 1983

Which theory or combination of industrial relations theories best explains the changes in industrial
relations in Australia since 1983?

Theories include:

Unitarism, pluralism, radicalism, corporatism, labour force theory, management theory.
Following the Timeline, since 1983 the leader was BOB HAWKE, using
? Labour force theory,and
? pluralist
then, 1993, P. Keating was the president, using
? corporation, and
? pluralist

then, 1996, Howard was the leadr, using:
? management theory
? corporatism

then , 2007, it is Rudd Government now. Using
? management theory
? consider it through reading, pluralist or unitarism


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OTA # 105428


Industrial Relations in Australia

Since 1983 Australia's industrial relations (IR) climate has gone through several stages of evolution as result of changing political and economic climates within the country and worldwide. In Australia and elsewhere public management has replaced public administration reflecting a more market oriented approach (Fairbrother & O'Brien 2006).This paper details the changes in Australia's IR and explains the concepts that drove the IR policies of each Australian administration starting with the Hawke and ending with the Rudd administrations. To explain the IR changes in Australia it helps to fist have a good understanding of the employment relationship and the theories that affect it.

Employment Relationship Frameworks

The employment relationship is a direct relationship between an employee and an employer which can be mediated by the two other key institutions to IR, the trade union (or more rarely a non-union group representing employees) and the state. Unions engage with employees through efforts to organize them and through mobilization around sets of demands. They engage with employers by taking part in collective bargaining. They may also engage with the state, for example in making demands for legislation or in engaging in more lasting forms of accommodation (such as 'corporatism' in the Nordic countries or a series of 'Accords' in Australia). The state influences the employment relationship directly through laws on wages (e.g. minimum wages), working conditions (e.g. on hours of work) and many other issues and through its role as the employer of public sector workers. It also has a series of indirect influences. It has relationships with unions, either through laws on union government or through bilateral arrangements (e.g. the UK 'social contract' of the 1970s in which unions promised to moderate wage demands in return for tax concessions) or through trilateral relationships also involving employers (corporatism). In addition to corporatism, the state may have bilateral relations with employers (e.g. various periods of incomes policy in France) and also shape employers' conduct through legally mandated collective bargaining. Finally, the state can play a critical role in the character of market and managerial relations (Edwards 2003).

Understanding the nature of workplace rules can be developed by considering three perspectives on rules, usually termed frames of reference. These frames of reference are the unitary, pluralist and radical approaches (Edwards 2003).

The unitary view is that there is an identity of interest between employer and employee. Any conflict that may occur is then seen as 'the result of misunderstanding or mischief; in other words, as pathological'. This view underlay much taken-for-granted managerial thinking about everyone in an enterprise having shared goals, and also underpinned several academic approaches notably the 'human relations' tradition. Unitarism was often used as a straw man representing old-fashioned and unrealistic ideas, but surveys found that many managers continued to believe in a harmony of interest, and as should already be clear a resurgence of managerial self-confidence and a re-assertion of market individualism underpinned a revival of unitarism from the 1980s. During the 1990s, HRM often implied that management was the sole or at least key authority. HRM practice is likely to have a strong unitary aspect, as reflected in the finding of the 1998 Workplace Employee Relations Survey that 72 per cent of workplace managers responsible for personnel matters prefer to consult directly with employee rather than with trade unions. Managers without these responsibilities are likely to be even more strongly 'unitarist'(Edwards 2003).

Pluralists see conflict as inevitable because various organizations ...

Solution Summary

This solution dicusses a combination of industrial relations theories that explain the changes in industrial
relations in Australia since 1983.