The aim of this exercise is for students to develop a substantial analysis of a key aspect of Australian employment relations.
You have to choose EITHER one of the following topics and write a REFERENCED 2500 word essay on the topic.
- Should bargaining in Australian employment relations be guided by a code of good faith bargaining? Why or Why not? ( Chs 1- 7 of Bray et al, 2014; Caspersz, D., Gillan, M & White D, State, Ideology and the Emergence of ‘Good Faith’ Collective Bargaining in Australia, Journal of Industrial Relations. 53(5). 632-646)
- Should the system of Australian employment relations be structured to contribute to workplace productivity and performance? Why or Why not? (Chs 8-13 of Bray et al, 2014; Peetz, D (2012) Does industrial relations policy affect productivity? ABL vol 38 (4), pp 268-292.)
SHOULD THE SYSTEM OF AUSTRALIAN EMPLOYMENT RELATIONS BE STRUCTURED TO CONTRIBUTE TO WORKPLACE PRODUCTIVITY AND PERFORMANCE? WHY OR WHY NOT?
The workplace is an important environment that contributes much to the economy of a nation. As such, the Australian government, just like other democratic nations believes in the provision of Fair Work Laws all its citizens (AGPC, 2015, p. 1). Workers can only enjoy higher living standards, encouraging paychecks, and more beneficial jobs once the employment environment is structured to be productive, fair, as well as effective. Many innovative changes have been experienced in the Australian workplace within the past two decades and have given rise to certain terms that have been used to quantify the level of work. At present, work systems are described using specific terms such as high-performance, high commitment, and high involvement. These terms are used by managers in the workplace to emphasize the importance of teamwork and appropriate employee involvement. It is evident that workplace productivity rises over time due to the growth in the standard of capital. However, primary among the factors that increase productivity is the utilisation of new and improved techniques by the government. This essay agrees that the system of Australian employment relations should be structured to contribute effectively to the productivity and performance within the workplace environment.
Without a reliable system of Australian employment system, individual and non-unionism methods of contracting will certainly not work out as expected (Dibben & Klerck, 2011, p. 24). This is because non-unionism and individual contracting systems are associated with various problems of fairness. If the employees feel like they are being treated unfairly, they will feel a fissure of their wage-effort bargain (DIANE, 2010, p. 66). They will then be convinced to respond to such a situation with behavior such as reduced efforts towards the achievement of organisational goals, regular absenteeism, and cases of direct conflict. The commitment of the employees to the Australian employment system will certainly mean an equal commitment to the employer.
Any efforts that are put into breaking the commitment of the employees to the employment system means breaking the commitment of the employers too. There is much evidence to prove that methods of individual contracting and non-unionism have serious effects on the fairness of employees (Peetz, 2012, p. 264). Employees who belong to an employment system have an equal distribution of earnings than those who do not belong to any. In fact, in a greater percentage of industries in Australia, members who belong to an active employment system receive higher wages as compared to the non-members. Lack of a structured employment system has a substantial effect on how employees are treated fairly.
Individual workers have fewer options and are inherently unable to bargain with their employers whenever they feel disadvantaged (Peetz, 2012, p. 265). Ideally, power with the labour market depends on the number of options that each party has and the harm that they could encounter if a reliable deal is not made. Employers have more power since they have many potential employees that can be hired to handle any tasks within the job setting. Thus, an employee will be hurt more when they are fired than it will certainly hurt the employer if one of the employees quits willingly (Peetz, 2012, p. 266). In such circumstances, a structured Australian employment system will be helpful in fighting for the rights of the employees especially when they are retrenched with no valid reason. An employee works with more willingness when they know that there is a law that protects their fears. This way, they are able their performance as well as productivity.
One major way to resolve the economic imbalance between the employees and their employer is by imposing regulations on labour contracts (Kaufman, 1997, p. 386). Such regulations reduce the capacity of the employers to control the terms of the agreement between them and their employees. Most developed countries have put such rules in place, and they have been effective in boosting the security of the employees. However, such a system cannot be implemented without structured employment relations in Australia. Regulations on labour contracts may include health and safety rules, minimum wage rules, as well as regulations that govern the working hours of the employees (Kaufman, 1997, p. 387). These regulations protect the employees from being overworked and ensure that necessary overtime payments are made whenever the employees are subjected to irregular working hours. The general thinking behind the absence of such regulatory guidelines is that the employers would offer their employees with jobs that are below the minimum wage, excessive working hours, as well as dangerous working conditions. Such vulnerability can force individual workers to accept such jobs and conditions.
A structured system of Australian employment would ensure such rules are enforced and that crude employers are blocked from using their power advantageously in the labour market (Meagher, 2003, p. 21). The structured system also rectifies the imbalance of power by developing a resemblance of equality when bargaining about the contract of the employer. Whenever there is a strong structured system, the employers must be willing to harmonize the demands of the workers. If not, then the employer does not have the opportunity to access cheap, discriminatory, and forced labour (IBRD, 2012, p. 157). Under the system, the employees can decline to work as a means of punishing the employers for failing to keep their word on a contract. Such disagreements are formally referred to as strikes. If one employee refuses to work, the employer would feel no harm since they could replace them as quickly as possible. But, it becomes detrimental when collective employees decide to go on strike (IBRD, 2012, p. 157). The threat that develops from a strike provides a reliable balance for constructing new terms of work. The power of the employee and the employer is balanced, and more contractual and favorable terms are provided to the workers.
A structured system of employment relations in Australia fosters the democratic participation of workers in issues of national importance. They contribute to organic solidarities since most members within the system are people who work within a specific work setting (Kirkman, et al., 1999, p. 27). Countries that have well-developed employment relations systems, the members are responsible for organizing all sorts of activities and helping the ordinary workers get involved in various collective decisions within the workplace setting (Høyrup, 2012, p. 12). The system may also allow Australian workers to form councils within their workplace where they can discuss and deliberate on the regulations that affect their safety and health, grievance procedures, working condition, and many other things that are likely to affect the rate of productivity.
Whenever conflicts from these councils are launched to the employers, the employees are likely to feel this as a collective responsibility rather than individual efforts that are likely to go unnoticed. The interdependencies existing among the employees can mature into solidarities that can encourage improved productivity and performance. Apart from helping employees build a strong base with their employers, these systems also help organisations solve the crucial problems that arise in the course of working (Herzberg, 2008, p. 18). They have the ability to provide relevant information to the employees, helping them to solve the challenges that arise due to normal ignorance.
Structured systems of employment relations combine societal values and techniques and impact them into the life of the employees. Some of the basic societal values may include the search for maximized profits, freedom of association, and a unique sense of solidarity when working within a group setting (Porta & Keating, 2008, p. 26). Among the techniques that employees gain from the structured system may include the ability to organize work, establishing appropriate measures for negotiation, how to solve disputes, and favorable mechanisms to make appropriate consultations with the employer. These systems are never static and change from time to time to meet the new circumstances that surround the work environment. Employees who work as individuals without involved in such a structured system of employment may find it difficult to determine any changes regarding employment laws, or any other guidelines that exist between the employer and the employee (Painter & Holmes, 2012, p. 520). As such, this may subject them to vulnerabilities of their employers who may take advantage of their solitude to deny them their basic rights. However, the changing nature of a structured system allows the employee members to enjoy the rare opportunity of being updated whenever there are adjustments in the rules that govern their relationship with their employer.
There is a popular belief that enrollment into these structured systems makes employees and employers to compete for monopoly. This is not the case since the two are not competitors in any way. The relationship between employers and employees is one that should be surrounded with a lot of cooperation and mutual benefits. Structured employment relations in Australia would help avoid the sporadic and occasional conflicts that occur between the employees and their employers. Such systems also exclude other competing workers who are not members from competing for productive resources that are meant for the members only (Kessler-Harris, 2007, p. 35). Competition from unorganized members in organized workplaces can be a cause of conflict, especially when the employer does not like the union of the members. Therefore, structured employment systems organize all their workers, and provide them with unique opportunities to earn higher wages. On the other hand, employers who work with organized workers can engage in fights with the employees, especially when the costs of production is high. This is possible since employers who work with unorganized employees can pay lower wages. As a result, they incur fewer costs of production and can price their products relatively low to attract more buyers.
Some corporations claim that avoiding paying the penalty rates for overtime hours and weekend work increases the rate of labour productivity since no additional costs are involved. But, this is not the case. Employees subjected to such conditions become unenthusiastic to put in the additional effort since the employer has already failed in accommodating their interests. Threats of the dismissal of the employee may yield some level of motivation (Thomas, 2010, p. 5). However, this is less likely to encourage the employee to contribute possible innovative innovations that could stimulate growth. Structuring an enterprise-based collective system would help largely in providing opportunities for the employer to discuss possible increases in wage and encourage a more efficient and productive work environment. Such systems enhance a neutralized relationship between the employee and the employer.
A structured system of employment in Australia will only allow collective agreements to be made once a majority of the employees have consented to the proposed terms of work of service. Such collective agreements cover the employees, their employer, and the stakeholders of the structured system. With a free market economy in Australia, an employee is free to accept any services they receive as long as they consider them to be the best. Enhancing competition among the workers makes sure that no one is overpaid while enhancing competition among the employers makes sure that no one is underpaid. Labour is treated in an equal manner as any other factor of production due to the presence of a free market. A free market encourages the employers to come together and pay less than the market price to the employees. As such, there is a great possibility that some businesspeople would come to the market and offer more remuneration to the workers. Such actions would certainly cause the wage rates to go up to the peripheral productivity of labour. In addition, a free market order would enhance the allocation of work to the employee according to the fruits of his labour.
A structured system of employment relations could be the solutions for the widespread cases of unemployment in Australia (UMGSBA, 2002, p. 139). Such systems would be useful in repealing the laws that prevent most workers from competing for jobs that pay highly or lowly. Anyone seeking employment should be allowed to accept job offers at the highest wage possible they can get, and this is one of the strategies that would be useful in a structured system of employment. The free competition for jobs is a reliable solution for the menace that comes with unemployment in Australia. Whenever there is a structured system to deal with the employment of the employees, cases of involuntary unemployment would not occur in society. Unemployment is common in a free market since one party, especially the employer chooses whether to accept or decline the wage suggestions provided by their employees. Such scenarios create a good opportunity for employee manipulation from the employers who want to enjoy paying lower wages and subject the employee to extraneous tasks.
Workplace productivity and performance can be enhanced through the ability of the employees to participate in providing solutions to critical issues that affect their ability to deliver. The level of participation of each employee can determine the possibility of generating a consensus as well as an understanding of the matters involved in workplace productivity (Langan-Fox, et al., 2007, p. 27). Each workplace environment needs to have a legally binding system that ensures the discussed incentives among the employees will not be withdrawn during times of economic hardships. This is particularly important whenever the employer is introducing the use of new technology to the workplace. Such provisions and assurance cannot be handled effectively by employees working on an individual basis. It requires effort from a group of employees to ensure that the diversified quality of production is maintained or improved further to a better working deal.
Structures of employment relations can also provide strong restrictions on the ability of the employer to access the external labour market. These structures have the ability to make any redundancies involved in the workplace expensive and limit the use of casual and part-time workers to evade hiring full-time workers. They can also offer a long-term guarantee to the employees, forcing employers to treat them as permanent factors of production (Langan-Fox, et al., 2007, p. 29). Such situations force the employers to have a strong incentive to utilize the skills and knowledge of their employees effectively. On the other hand, employees enjoy high-quality security provided by the structures of employment and have a high likelihood of accepting the need to be flexible in undertaking broader tasks that develop from the changing market environment.
In summary, the system of Australian employment relations should be structured in a manner that contributes to more productivity and performance in the workplace. Such a strategy can enhance the need for recognition to restore the competitiveness and efficiency of the workplace environment. For the structure to be successful, there is need to converge the best traditions of craft and unionism in the industry. Unions of workers that have a strong base in the workplace have the ability to develop and retain a productive focus and avoid the trap of unionism in the company. Even though a system of Australian employment relations will have significant power on the distribution of power and income, it will certainly have some impact on the economic efficiency and productivity of the workplace. It is already evident that productivity and performance cannot be enhanced if there is no power balance between the employee and their employer. Fairness is certainly the principal issue that industrial relations can deal with when protecting the rights of the employees. There are many other considerations, but fairness seems to be the most important one that can be affected by any legislations passed by the Australian government in developing a system of employment relations.
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