The Federation Press

The Transformation of Australian Industrial Relations


The past decade has seen the decline in importance of the tribunal-based systems of conciliation and arbitration that have shaped relationships between labour and management in this country since the turn of the century.

The remaining systems of industrial awards struggle to retain a place on centre stage and there has been a clear shift in the level at which wages and employment conditions are determined. An almost exclusive focus on industry and economy-wide considerations has given way to a hybrid system which places greater emphasis on the enterprise and the workplace.

This book analyses these changes and provides an understanding of their impact on Australian workplaces.

  • describes the changing nature of Australian industrial relations and the forces behind that change
  • provides an understanding of the nature of the ‘new’ agreements, both collective and individual, that are being negotiated
  • analyses how trade unions have reacted to, and have been affected by, changes in bargaining structures
  • discusses the possible implications of changing industrial relations arrangements for the nature of work and for individuals performing that work
  • examines whether changes in bargaining structures have had any impact on business performance, especially through enhanced worker productivity; and
  • considers likely future trends in industrial relations arrangements.

This book ... “makes an important contribution to the study of Australian industrial relations arrangements and can be expected to have a significant impact on both policy and research in the years ahead”.

Table of Contents


Key Concepts

The Changing Face of Australian Industrial Relations (with Anne Hawke)

A Decade of Change
The Impetus for Change
Responses to Change

The Significance and Nature of Collective Agreements

The Scope and Significance of Agreements
The Motivation for Agreement-making
Explaining Differences Across Workplaces in the Use of Enterprise Agreements
Informal Agreement-making
Non-union Collective Agreements
Pattern Bargaining

The Significance and Nature of Individual Agreements

Defining Individual Agreements
Incidence, Coverage and Trends
Factors Motivating and Inhibiting the Use of Individual Agreements
Features of Individual Agreements

Enterprise Bargaining and Trade Unions (with Robert Drago)

Evidence from the AWIRS
Evidence from the 1998 NILS Workplace Management Survey

The Changing Nature of Work and the Implications for Workers

Job Insecurity
Longer Working Hours
Earnings Inequality

The Productivity Question

How Can Enterprise Bargaining Promote Higher Productivity?
The Macro Evidence
Changing Bargaining Structures and Productivity Catch-up
The Micro Evidence

The Future of Australian Industrial Relations

The Coalition Agenda
Is Industrial Relations Reform Beyond Politics?
Management Expectations
The Final Word

Appendix A: Data Sources
Appendix B: Results from Multivariate Analysis


Published with the assistance of:

National Institute of Labour Studies
Business Council of Australia
Committee for Economic Development of Australia

Of interest...