Trade Unions in Australia

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Table of contents

Executive Summary…………………………………………………….. Page 3

Introduction………………………………………………………………Page 4

Benefits of joining a union……………………………………………….Page 6

Membership declines and impact of legislation…………………………Page 7

Effect of Human Resources on Employees and Union memberships…Page 9

Conclusion…………………………………………………………………Page 10

References…………………………………………………………………Page 11

Executive Summary:

Since the 1980’s trade union membership numbers have declined rapidly ( Balnave et al, 2007, pg 130). Once upon a time it was quiet important for employees to be part of a union as it entitled them to have a collective voice, and power to build a pleasurable workplace. There have been many factors that have contributed to this decline in union memberships such as changes in workplace structure as well as increase in employee numbers (Patmore, 1992, pg 227 ). Changes in legislation by the Howard government with the implementation of the 1996 Workplace Relations Act and later the Workchoices Act restricted trade unions in a large way therefore contributing to the decline in members. The increasing use of Human Resources within businesses is also impacting as employees are choosing to directly consult management over issues rather then involving a third party. With the Labour party regaining power in 2007 the legislations have now been adjusted in favour of trade unions. However they are going to have to continue to work hard so employees choose to join unions and begin to go against this declining trend of union memberships (Cooper, 2004, pg 207).

Introduction:
A trade union is ‘an organisation of employees whose focus is the protection and negotiation of pay rates and conditions of employment’ ( Balnave et al, pg 536, 2007). By people joining together as a collective not an individual, produces a greater amount of power when dealing with issues such as wages and working conditions (Balnave et al, 2007, pg125). It is this power that influences changes to occur in employment relations and as a result employees become satisfied with their workplace. Trade unions for many years now have played a key role in Australia’s structure of employee relations ( Balnave et al, 2007, pg 124 ). It can be noted that trade unions in Australia date back to as early as the rebellions made my convicts in regards to their living conditions and have moved forward to the current issues of employees such as work conditions, pay rates and various other factors (ACTU website). From the years 1850-1990, trade unions were officially established in Australia (ACTU website) and various unions were formed such as the shearers union, seaman union and miners union (ACTU website). In 1901 the NSW Industrial Arbitration Act was passed. This act was bought about in the hope of creating productive workplaces by improving the standards of workplaces ( ACTU website). Also this act issued compulsory arbitration so that if a dispute did arise within the workplace, it must be bought to the Industrial Relations Committee (ACTU website). Since the 1980’s trade unions in Australia have declined significantly (Patmore, 1992, pg 225). at a rate of 1% per year then increased to 2% per year in the 1990’s. ( Balnave et al, 2007, pg 137). There are several reasons as to why this has occurred such as the structure of the workplace, for example the increase in causal labour (Patmore, 1992, pg 227), changes in economic markets, increase in flexibility given to employers over employees, increase in managerial rights and the behaviour of unions overtime (Balnave et al, 2007, pg 138) . The biggest change of all for trade unions in Australia came about in 1996, with the reintroduction of the liberal party under the power of John Howard. It was here that the development of the Workplace Relations Act occurred. This act saw the introduction of Australian Work Agreements (AWA’s). These agreements allowed for employers to work closely with their employees to...
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