The changes introduced into the Workplace Relations Act by the Work Choices Act represent a definitive and radical break from the historical tradition of Australian labour law. The amending legislation cemented in place a predominantly market-based orientation to the Australian system of labour law. It was in the year 2005 that an amendment was made in the Work Choices Act which did away with the laws regarding to unfair dismissal. In addition the no disadvantage test which had always been a bone of contention for along time was equally done away with.
With the new amendment it also eliminated the lengthy process by workers of submitting their agreements which had to be duly certified by going through the Industrial Relations Commission in Australia. Instead they could directly submit them to the Workplace Authority (Laura, 1994). The Work choices Act also made it more difficult for workers to go on strike and employers could now easily their employees into an individual workplace agreement as opposed to a collective or a group agreement.
In addition any clause which either wholly or partly supported trade unions was completely deleted from the Act. In light of the above this paper takes an in-depth look at the history of labour laws in Australia and more particularly if the current direction of labour law in Australia is defensible (Susan, 2000). Perhaps just before looking at the history of labor laws in Australia it is important to find out what exactly gave rise to labour laws in Australia and indeed the rest of the world.
It all began when workers agitated at their working conditions which they described as poor, oppressive and unfair. It must also be remembered that before labour laws were introduced workers did not have unions as they were not allowed to organize themselves in groups. This was yet another reason that made workers to agitate and demanded to be given the right of to form unions which were to protect and safeguard their rights. In the beginning labor laws were heavily opposed by employers who felt that these laws were going to cost them heavily.
In their argument, employers felt that for instance allowing workers to form unions would give them an avenue to demand for high wages. However despite the heavy opposition from employers labor laws finally were established. So how has the Australian labor laws come along since the initial establishment of labor laws? The Conciliation and the Arbitration Act of 1904 a court that came to be known as the Conciliation and Arbitration court whose main concern was to arbitrate disputes that were industrial in nature.
Through arbitration this court was also given the mandate wages as well as conditions and terms of employment across the board. However since its establishment the Act has since been amended and repealed severally. It is quite evident that labour laws in Australia have gone through various radical changes. The legislation that majorly regulates labour matters in Australia is the Workplace Relations Act which was enacted in 1996.
This Act has since overtaken and succeeded previous Acts like the Conciliation and Arbitration and the Work choices Acts. The main objective of the Workplace Relations Act is to enhance good work relations between employees and employers and also among employees themselves. This has the impact of improving or promoting prosperity economically and the general welfare and wellbeing of the citizens of Australia. It is this Act (Workplace Relations Act) that establishes a commission whose main objective is to enhance relationship in industries.
The Act has in addition put in place framework that helps prevent or minimize the number of disputes that take place in industries (Laura, 1994). The Act has also gone further to set out the minimum in terms of wages the employees are entitled depending on their job description. This Act has therefore gone along way in defending the rights of workers by ensuring that their not exploited by their employers. The Act also contains provision that allows for negotiations between employers and employees as far as employment agreements are concerned.
Another very important role that is played by this Act is to regulate all manners of activities that trade unions engage in to ensure that there is no undue external interference especially the employers. Employers have also under the Act been given a right to form their own organizations that help them regulate the behavior of their employees at work. The Act therefore attempts to harmonize the operations of both the trade unions and the Employers’ organization. It is in the Act the workers or employees are guaranteed their freedom of association and it is out of this right that workers are able to form trade unions.