The role of the government on industrial relations is very important as it sets the legal framework that industrial relations operates in. Appropriate industrial relations legislation should recognize the requirements of both employers and employee’s. Both the employee and the employer want to profit from each other but are also reliant on each other. This means that the equal bargaining power of employers and workers must be recognized (Peetz, David. 2006). Appropriate industrial relations laws should address any imbalance of power and give both groups an equal degree of control. Appropriate industrial relations should not only allow a mixture of both collective and individual bargaining but also facilitate employee participation in day to day workplace decisions. After all it’s the structure and framework of the employment relationship, which is governed by legislation that leads to good Industrial Relations. One of the main debates concerning industrial relations in Australia is the method used to organise and manage labour. Although both the current government and the opposition share differing opinions on the current industrial relations laws, most of the issues concern the use of third parties or unions, individualist and collectivist frames of reference and individual vs. collective bargaining. According to Accel-Team, appropriate industrial relations laws are there to protect both parties by protecting the weak (hence minimum wage); outlaw discrimination (race, sex, etc); determine minimum standards of safety, health, hygiene and minimum employment conditions (sick leave, annual leave, etc) to prevent the abuse of power by either party (Accel-team. 2005). If all these areas are addressed in the best interest of both the workers and managers, then this has the potential to lead to good industrial relations.
When considering good industrial relations it is important to note both perspectives of the relationship want different outcomes. Workers want good conditions and a wage which adequately reflects their efforts and ability. Employees also want a voice in the organisation and want to be able to play a role in making decisions particularly those that have a direct impact on their ongoing employment (company takeovers eg Qantas or outsourcing arrangements). On the other hand employers want the workers to be productive and efficient for the least amount of financial sacrifice (Trish Todd. 2006). A common element that both parties want is control and power. I believe appropriate industrial relations laws should offer equality and fairness to both the worker and the employer. These laws should protect workers by giving them adequate wages and conditions.
In the past the government has used legislation to establish industrial tribunals tasked with the role to determine pay and other key conditions of employment. They also had a role in preventing and settling industrial disputes (Plowman, D.; Preston, A. 2006). The focus was on collective bargaining by unions and employers, around minimum wages and conditions set by the tribunal. This created an industrial relations environment where whole industry sectors could be impacted by industrial action whilst new agreements were negotiated. The model was largely based on a one size fits all model and did not recognise the individual requirements of both employees and employers. In recent times legislation has changed to try and encourage greater flexibility between workers and managers.
When looking at both perspectives, individual contracts or Australian Workplace Agreements (AWAs) are often seen as good IR for employers because they increase flexibility and remove any unwanted impact of a third party. However some believe they reduce the bargaining power of the employees. “Collectively, workers can influence the determination of the rules of the workplace by starving the employer of labour to surplus value.” (Timo, Nils. 1997: 54). This...