Human resource management in Australia

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Introduction

Human resource management refers to the management of organization’s work force, who individually and collectively determine the achievement of organization‘s business objectives, that is critical to the success of the business.  The approach should be   strategic and coherent. In short human resource management is the hiring of people, developing and motivating them to tune to the organization’s vision and mission for the success of the business. The approach employed by Australia in its managing of human resources provides a classical example of human resource from the Asia pacific region. In this essay the emphasis will be on contemporary issues in human resource management like employee learning, work teams, impact of technology, labour organizations which directly impact human resource management. In this case study special emphasis is put on the role of HRM in strategy formulation, implementation, and organisations-environmental interaction. A great emphasis will also be put on institutional impact on the human resource management. The main aim of this study is to critically analyze the institutional impact on human resource management in Australia. There has been some marked change organizations in Australia which normally followed the dominant corporate strategy for the last for decades and this has impacted on the responsibilities of personnel  and human resource management strategies an their duties. The personnel function have changed from the from house keeping work to contributing in the design and implementation of organization mission and vision.

Trade unions and employment contracts

A short history of Australian unions

In this context the emphasis will be put on the evolution of trade unions, reasons for their formation and achievements in the last two hundred years. Organizational movements have evolved from convict rebellions over work and living conditions to the recent struggles for maternity leave, better payment, superannuation and other rights like compensation following accidents

In January 26th of 1788 after the landing of captain Phillip, New South Wales was taken as an English penal colony and the first convicts struggle lead to formation of unions in Australia. From 1788 to 1840 most of the struggles by inmates who were fighting for their basic rights like rations, mistreatment of their colleagues for example in 1791 Convicts Strike: demanding daily issue of rations, not weekly issue.

In 1828 an act termed masters and servants act of NSW which provided for imprisonment and withholding of wages if employees refused to work or destroyed property. And employers’ mistreatment of workers would result in payment of damages of up to six months of wages. In 1829 a strike by typographers which was supported by carpenters succeeded in their payment in sterling as opposed to currency change that could see their wages affected negatively. following economic depression of 1843, their was formation of mutual protection society for the welfare of middle and working classes of N.S.W. in the year 1844 there was demand for the reduction of working hours from fourteen to twelve hours per day and there was formation of anti-deportation league spearheaded by the political activity of working class in 1948. The existence of laws that outlawed the formation of trade unions did exist in Britain until 1871 when trade union act was passed, but their existence did little to prevent the formation of these trade unions. The period between 1850 and1900 was marked with development of trade unions in Australia. These trade unions were meant to fight for workers rights, like reduction of working hours, fight of cheaper labour from other countries like china etc. for example the formation of a movement termed eight hour movement in 1856 by stonemasons to help the co-operation of unions, The 1856 demand for payment of wages for their work by men of aboriginal station Victoria, the 1878 strike against use of cheap labour from china by seaman’s union. It was not until1881 that the N.S.W trade union act was passed leading to union rights and registration. In 1885 the first board of arbitration resolved a conflict in favour of the labourers. In 1890, employers in Australia formed employers unions. In 1894 women won the right to vote in Australia.

In year 1904 the Australian labour federation was formed, pioneer labour government elected and pioneer labour government was formed. In 1907 the minimum basic wage was established.

There was a big impact by the Second World War on Australian man power such that more women joined the work force in great numbers since most of the men were participating in the war. In 1939 following Second World War women did replace men in many of the industries in Austria. Their wages also did equal to men’s wages at this time. After the war there was migration which had a great impact on both culture and work force. The Whitelaw labour government did bring some substantial changes which included the equal pay principle despite its limited time in power. In 1941 there was provision for a standard one week leave and union membership had reached 1,076,600. In 1946 men started replacing women from industries. The children care centres were shut down. In the same year aboriginal workers went on strike for better pay and working environment which lasted till 1949. The restructuring of ACTU executive made it possible for unions from each company to elect their representatives. There was filing of claims for the removal of discriminatory clauses regarding employment of aborigines. Following the accord between ACT and the ALP, and the election of a labour government resulted in great changes in industrial relations. This was followed by changes in industrial relation registration. There were also other privileges that were awarded to workers which included maternity leave family leave, increase of wages .there was also rectification of problems in economic structures by unions and also merging of unions to form few but effective ones and collective bargain became the route for wage increases. Unfortunately, the governments followed established anti –union legislation. In 1990 ACTU struggled to change Australia education system and training for the betterment of employee’s skills in the work place and to produce a competent work force. In 1992 collective bargain was introduced into industrial relation act. In the same year ACTU did win parental leave test case. There was introduction of legislation aimed at reducing award and union coverage.

There was introduction of work place relation act which resulted in reducing workers rights and limited union by the Howard government in the year 1996. But in 1998, union movements with the support of the public won against government and employer on their right to organize and be a member of a union .The unions did bring a lot of benefits to the employees in Australia, the benefits included: paid holiday leave, paid overtime, provision of protective clothing and equipment by the employer and more other benefits. . Due to great economic growth in last decade there had been low inflation and limited industrial disputes. This has provided favourable environment for development of an informed and competent workforce who unlike there predecessors who did house keeping work are involved in strategic management position. Australian workers of today are faced with lack of job security and also those working in full time jobs are working longer hours than before. Australia is decentralized regulatory system of work has removed many of the privileges for the workforce. Compared to the previous systems, there is also increase in working hours, stress levels and occupational disease. This has also had a negative effect in the social settings. There is also changing nature of the social contract at work which is normally considered as mutual expectation and obligations between employers and employees in specific and society in general. Despite the fact of the modernization of economy and human capital, human resource professionals have to be the stewards of social contracts, a duty which they have lost their credibility due to their inability to challenge organizational policies. Human resource professional need to be open minded in order for them to sound organizational policies. Like the United States of America, Australia has no policy for paid family leave; hence Australian women have no privileges of paid maternity leave. There is need to have balance between work and family matters which seem to be of great problem in Austria at present and the government is not willing to tackle this important aspect that could impact on human resource management.

The Individualisation of Employment Relationships and the adoption of High Performance Work Practices

In this context critical analysis on the effects of the so called AWA’s, introduced in 1999, by work place relations act on the human resource management and their deployment in a strategic way with the aim of supporting more innovative industrial relations practices which improve performance. Most of the AWA’s were meant to introduce flexibility in working hours and matters affecting employee wages. Unfortunately very few employer if any introduced AWA’s to work practices according to requirements by high performance model of work place model.

In the last two decades in Australia there has been emergence of the so called ‘high performance work system’ as an employment system making part of the human resource management. The aim of this system s is to enable organization compete globally by strategically integrating organizational goals and employee effort and commitment. These new systems ensure the key aspects that affect employee performance like, flexibility in work hours, and chores, application of modern technology. And some changes in work organization, they also provide for employee empowerment through participation in policy design in the organization. And also employee representation in the board and formal complain and dispute resolution. There is great emphasis on individual performance which is indicated by use of financial incentives like profit sharing and employee share ownership. The use of management schemes termed total quality management schemes and use of formal training system to improve employee performance (ABS 2000). Policies promoting employee security and satisfaction are feature of these new management systems. There are policies providing for equal opportunities and discouraging discrimination, promoting occupational health, safety, family matters. There is also an aspect of individualization process that serves to undermine the role of unions and this allows employers to cost through greater labour exploitation. Most of these systems have been influenced by policies for open markets that are being employed by Australian organizations at present. These system also are designed in away to exclude unions. Individualization is a means by which most .............


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