A critical review of the major opposing views on arbitration & industrial relations

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This paper will critically review the major opposing perspectives on arbitration and industrial relations, with particular attention to how government regulation and intervention relate to the changes made to the system after 1996. The major focus of this brief paper will be to demonstrate that Howard’s industrial relations policies resemble those of the late 1800’s, where the Master and Servant Act’s regulated the relationships between employer and employee. These were replaced with the introduction of the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration (1904-1921). The outcome from such dramatic change in industrial relations was the forming of unions and major strikes. Subsequently, the new system of employer and employee relations sought to resolve labour disputes and enhance the quality of life for Australian workers. Moreover it was steeped in social democratic ideals and worked to give every Australian a decent standard of living. These ideals have yet shifted back to the individual contract model where the market predetermines wages and working conditions.

During pre-federation when free labour came to dominate the colonies; workers exercised their civil citizenship rights through entry into individual employment contracts. The master and servant laws which empowered these individual contracts were imported from Britain and were quickly implemented and regulated in the Colonies. Isaac argues that ‘the master and servant acts … both in concept and practice reflected the harsh penal code used against the convicts’. However, the latter part of the 1800’s brought with it the rising political influence of the working classes and an increasingly powerful trade union. The modification of the master and servant laws through the collectivisation of union groups resulted in a greater role fir state interventions.

The 1890’s saw the emergence of many disputes over working conditions and the power employers had over employees, which was legitimised by law. Australian workers were illustrating this through strikes and the formation of unions. In recognising the duty of government to be the protection and economic welfare of its citizens, a court of Conciliation and Arbitration was established in Australia in the 1890’s. The new systems were based in social democratic ideals and worked to give ever...

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...ts to replace the idea of "industrial relations" with that of "employee relations" reflect efforts to draw attention away from institutions like tribunals and unions, towards individuals and their direct relationships.

Bibliography

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