A Review Of The Australian Employment Relations Through The Media Lenses

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A Review Of The Australian Employment Relations Through The Media Lenses

Contents

Article 1: Union Rage as Jobs Go Offshore. 1

How this is Related to Employment Relations. 2

Article 2: Government, Unions Applaud Penalty Rates Ruling. 3

Article 3: Level the Playing Field: A Call for Action on Gender Parity in Australia. 6

Conclusion. 8

Introduction

The Australian employment relations system has seen a number of changes that have attracted media attention in the recent days (Mortimer & Ingersoll, 2012, p.4). The media reports or portfolio can be used to enhance the process of these employment relations changes and their impact on management in the Australian business world. This paper will select three media articles that have highlighted major issues and changes in Australian media employment relations in the recent days. The areas of interest in this case will be industrial conflicts, equity and the role of Fair Work Commission. The articles selected are ‘union rage as jobs go offshore’, ‘Government, unions applaud penalty rates ruling’ and ‘Level the playing field: a call for action on gender parity in Australia.’ These articles are used to build a media portfolio of changes in Australian employment relations system.

Article 1: Union Rage as Jobs Go Offshore

The National Times, March 1, 2013

Findings

The Key Parties Involved

The key parties involved in the discussion are an Australian manufacturer Telstra, staff of Telstra and Australian Manufacturing Workers Union (AMWU).

The Key Issue

The Australian manufacturing workers union is calling upon the government to deny Telstra access to government contracts and other government infrastructure for outsourcing jobs to India and Philippines. The company has a plan to lay off about 700 workers – about 20% of its workforce. Off shoring 20% of the jobs will see Telstra save about $250 million yearly. In the past four years, about 80,000 jobs have been off shored to other countries where there is availability of cheap labor.  The main issue here is the effect of off shoring to Australian workers and the overall Australian economy. As a result, AMWU thinks that companies that are off shoring should be denied government contracts and other incentives such as national broadband.

Method Used To Resolve Dispute

The industry minister refused to give into the requests of the union and its workers. After demonstrations and negotiations with the government, the ministry stated that it could not shortlist Telstra as ineligible for government contracts because this would be a violation of Free Trade Agreement regulations. A move to deny Telstra will also risk the credibility of Australian businesses in winning overseas contracts and job opportunities created by the contract. These impacts are the creation of trade liberalism that allows free movement of labor, capital, goods and services.

How this is Related to Employment Relations

Employment relations also called industrial relations or employee relation is a multidisciplinary concept that involves many stakeholders in the labor economy. In simple terms, employment relations are the interaction between an organization and its employees as well employees with one another. The definition of employee in this case also takes in unions representing the workers and the government. There are different factors that determine employee relations in an organization and in an economy in general (Pankajakshan, 2013, p.8). It is also important to understand that employment relation is a dynamic concept, whose scope has been changing over the years with changes in technology and work organization. This involves trade agreements, economic conditions, company goals and role of workers’ representative bodies (Mortimer & Ingersoll, 2012, p.7). These factors and interactions may not go in the same direction and may result to industrial conflicts. This article is a clear indication of an industrial conflict between workers and their union and an employer on the other hand. This article is important to employment relations because it highlights factors influencing employment relations; specifically, the role of trade liberalism on industrial relations.

Telstra has resolved to lay off employees to make huge savings in revenue every year. The company is faced by a dilemma between maintaining its workforce and getting cheap labor from another market segment. Trade liberalization does not only refer to movement of goods, services and capital; it also affects mobility of labor from one economy to another (Casacuberta, Fachola, & Néstor, 2004, p.228). Free movement of labor from one economy to another has created space for off-shoring of jobs to different organizations across the globe.

The industrial conflict emerges between the role of trade unions and employee welfare and the need to increase productivity by the manufacturer. Off shoring has several benefits to the manufacturer: reduced taxation, increased efficiency and value creation through outsourcing (Doellgast, 2009, p.8). On the other hand, the welfare of employees being laid off to cut costs by outsourcing is a center of attention for the union. The union is also calling attention to the inability of local firms to create employment to local people yet they use government resources given as incentives to create jobs (Palangkaraya & Jongsay, 2011, p.16).

Whereas trade liberalization, especially mobility of labor through outsourcing increases productivity of manufacturing firms, it also affects the welfare of employees in an organization and in the economy (Casacuberta, Fachola, & Néstor, 2004, p.230). This fuels industrial conflict as firms enhance their competitive advantage while incurring a social cost of increasing unemployment rates lowering wage rate for Australian workers (Doellgast, 2009, p.12).

The article also brings up the role of government in employment relations as a regulator and law enforcer. However, in the case of this article, the government is bound by free trade agreements and as much as it should protect the welfare of employees and offer proper incentive to employers, this is not possible (Palangkaraya & Jongsay, 2011, p.12). Therefore, the industrial conflict will remain between the union and employers as social costs spill over to employees (Casacuberta, Fachola, & Néstor, 2004, p.238). Industrial conflict historically has emerged as employees voice their welfare issues and as producers or employers bargain to increase their productivity and cutting costs through wages or longer working hours (Doellgast, 2009, p.10). This is a new world economic order – trade liberalization, and so the government may avert the conflict as expected because through the same agreements will see contracts and employment opportunities coming to Australia.

Article 2: Government, Unions Applaud Penalty Rates Ruling

The Australian: March 18, 2013

Findings

The Parties Involved

The parties involved in this article are Fair Work Commission (Australia), unions through Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) and business and employer groups such as the National Retail Association, the Industry and Ai Group and the Queensland Chamber of Commerce.

Key Issues

The key issue in this article is the role of fair work commission in employment relations. In another article in the Australian, the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) made a plea to stop employers that were Work Choices in their favor. These work choices involve cutting penalties for overtime work, introduction of new annualized salary agreements so that employers can do away with allowances, narrow down the terms of shift work to reduce workers’ entitlements on access to salary and leave (The Australian, 2012). The employers were particularly pushing for a 24-hour economy that will go seven days a-week. The business groups want to control and have power on how much they can pay during the 24-hour economy.

Methods Used To Resolve the Dispute

Business and employer groups filed submissions to Fair Work Australia, FWA to be allowed to reduce penalties as they extend working hours. This would affect low-income workers, as it would mean salary-cut for low-waged Australians. The national workplace tribunal delivered its ruling that the business groups had not made any case and that they would continue paying penalties. The fair work commission also ruled that the current system recognizes the “disabilities of working at unsociable times” (The Australian, 2012). The commissions also reiterated that the pay rates are relatively low and so penalties were sustained.

How Is This Related To Employment Relations

This article is related to employment relations in that it shows the role of regulatory bodies and workplace tribunals in employment relations. In this case, the focus is on the role of FWC: Fair Work Commission is the Australia’s nationalized workplace relations tribunal. There are a number of FWC functions that come out in this article: hearing cases and submissions presented by stakeholders in industrial relations, solving disputes between workers and their unions and business groups, enterprise bargaining and safety net of employment conditions and minimum wages.

FWC ensures that employers and employees stick to the set Australian workplace regulations and rules. In this article, employers are supposed to pay penalties for employees working overtime and during weekends. The employers cannot go against these provisions without making submission or appeals to the commission in addition. The tribunal hears cases and submissions concerning laws whenever dispute and industrial conflicts. The commission is also in charge of outlining new laws and any amendments that may need to be implemented to take care of employees’ welfare or employer needs (Fair Work Commission, 2013).

In this article, the commission has an important role of workplace protections, employee welfare and ensuring equal remuneration. In its ruling, the commission argued that the work choices brought about by employers on having 24-hour economy with reduced penalties. The commission protected the employees from long working hours and lack of breaks on weekends without pay. The commission also ensures that remuneration is fair (Fair Work Commission, 2013). Therefore, it upheld the penalties to cushion low-income employees from salary cuts and exploitation. In this case, it provided a safety net to protect minimum conditions for employees working overtime and their rewards.

The commission is also charged with the function of deliberating on various collective and individual workplace conflicts through mediation, reconciliation and in extreme cases arbitration. In this article, the workplace dispute between low-wage workers and workers groups (Fair Work Commission, 2013).

Most workplace conflicts culmin.............


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