Employment Relations

Published: 2021-09-06 13:25:26
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Category: Business

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"Unions are a vital protection for employees in a free market environment"
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The state plays an important role in the deregulation of economies to promote the efficiency of market forces and to promote global competitiveness allowing countries to gain their comparative advantage in a global system of free trade (Ramasamy, 2005). The introduction of policies and legislation by the state that serve to tilt ideologies and politics towards capitalism can curb labour and trade unionism (Ramasamy, 2005). Free-market ideologists believe that the vast numbers of low-paid jobs will gradually become better-paid through investment and productivity, while societies are becoming increasingly polarised between those who have the wealth or skill to gain from global integration and those who remain trapped in poverty without productive employment (ICFTU, 2003). In a free market environment, unions must ensure that the rapid changes in the nature of work and in the labour market are achieved without compromising the goals of full employment and social justice (ICFTU, 2003).
Responding to economic pressures, Australia saw the Howard government introduce legislation that made it difficult for trade unions to engage in collective bargaining, a fundamental tool used to protect the wages and conditions of Australian workers (McCallum, 2002). As a result of this fundamental change in Australians industrial relations landscape, Australia saw the end of the Howard governments WorkChoices and the introduction of the Fair Work Act which represented a compromise in the eyes of unions, employers and the wider community (Bray et al., 2009). In considering the question of whether unions are vital protection for employees in a free market environment, this paper attempts to examine the role unions play in providing protection and highlights some of the alternatives employees can exploit to secure protection in the labour market. This paper examines the role of individual bargaining and collective bargaining, the climate in unionised and non-unionised workplaces, HRM practices and works councils as an alternative for employee voice and protection and the role unions and employees play in implementing workplace health and safety legislation and polices. This paper is underpinned by opinions provided in the media and how these opinions can influence the perceptions the public have of unions.
Trade unions have fought for the right to decent pay and conditions for men and women at their place of work and for improved social welfare through, for example, health care, education and social security for over half a century and today's free market environment much over what unions have achieved to date has and is being undermined by global financial, political and industrial decisions (ICFTU, 2003). Unions provide one mechanism by which employees can influence their terms and conditions of work and the process and practices employed in their workplace (Bray, Warring and Cooper, 2009). Unions can provide the mechanism for employees to bargain collectively rather than individually and can also assist in communicating to employers the concerns of their employees about their employment conditions (Bray et al, 2009). Some researchers suggest that unions provide workers both with protection against arbitrary management decisions and with a voice at the work place and in the political arena (Bennet and Kaufman, 2007). Research from a British report showed that dismissal rates in non-union workplaces were considerably higher than those of unionised workplaces, turnover rates were higher and in the absence of a trade union presence, it could be expected that management would impose harsher disciplinary sanctions on employees (Deery et al, 2001).

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