What Is Meant by Employer Militancy?

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MGTS2607 Essay

What is meant by employer militancy? How have employer actions towards trade unions changed since the end of the 1980’s? Why have Australian employers undertaken this change of approach?

Student: Samantha Freeman

Student Number: 41022715
Tutor: Dr Tom Bramble
Due Date: 16th September 2008


This essay will answer the three essay questions put forward. Firstly, it will briefly explain what is meant by employer militancy. It will outline the main features of the aggressive approach adopted by employers in their relations with trade unions since the 1980’s. Secondly, this essay will describe the changes in employer actions towards unions. It will outline the different phases that have occurred during the change as well as discussing trends which illustrate the growing tendency of employers to either confront or avoid dealing with unions or circumvent dealing with them completely. Lastly, this essay will put forth reasons as to why Australian employers have undertaken this change of approach. It will outline multiple factors, such as economical, political and changes in legislation that will help to explain this change in approach. This essay will also incorporate the decline in trade union coverage as both a result and a cause of this change in approach. Since the 1980s, Australian employers have become increasingly hostile towards trade unions over and due their perceived excessive involvement in bargaining for employment conditions, arbitration and disputes. This has created the phenomenon that’s been termed employer militancy. Alexander et al. (2008:97) define employer militancy as ‘willingness of employers to use legal action to secure punitive damages against a trade union’. It is an aggressive anti-union approach, in which employers actively seeking ways to marginalise trade unions, with the help of their employer organisation. There are several main features of a militant employer, behavours such as offensive lockout (Briggs, 2004:110) aims to reduce the bargaining power of the unions. Most of the heaviset impacting changes to the industrial relations system began to manifest in the late 1980’s. The process started with the ‘managed de-centralisation’ of the ‘second tier system’, where for the first time, representation for employees in regards to their wages and conditions of employment were able to be negotiated directly by employers and their associations and unions (McDonald and Rimmer, 1989 as cited by Cooper, 2005: 159). Prior to the 1990s, awards were a central and distinguishing feature of labour regulation in Australia (Bray et al, 2006:45). Awards were technically a form of state regulation which was determined by the decision of a third-party arbitrator appointed by the government (the Australian Industrial Relations Commission) in resolving disputes between registered organizations. As Bray and Waring (2006) explain, awards were in a realistic sense, the result of a complex structure of joint decision-making in which employees, their unions, employers, their employers' associations, governments and tribunals contributed to the regulation of employment conditions – primarily wages and wage rates. The failure of the Second Tier to moderate macroeconomic pressures in combination with the rising pressure from business groups such as the Business Council of Australia encouraged parties within the system to develop new procedures. The most significant among the new procedures was the possibility of a more decentralised system (Wooden and Sloan, 1998:178) which provided greater opportunities for employers and workers to negotiate directly over wages at the enterprise and workplace level, without the unions. The AIRC was unhappy with the new collective bargaining principle, and worked hard to obstruct the implementation of it. It was through these actions that the changes in the Industrial Relations Act 1988 were first made. These amendments reduced the...
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