Current Industrial Relation Trends in Australia.

Essay by Chloe123University, Bachelor's October 2005

download word file, 10 pages 4.2

In this report, I want to explore the reasons behind the decline of union memberships in Australia and the rise of individualism, and how that has effected workplace agreements between employees and employers.

I will look at enterprise bargaining, with references to the Australian Workplace Agreements (AWA). I will also compare and contrast the effectiveness of enterprise bargaining as oppose to collective bargaining, providing a specific example on how it can affect woman employees.


Over the last decade, Australian industrial relations have become less collectivised. This can be seen in the decline in union membership and the expansion of employees taking up individual contracts. Employment relations have come to focus more at the workplace level and the rise of human resource management has seen a greater focus on individualising work and mechanisms used to regulate work. Enterprise bargaining and policies such as AWAs are excluding the need for unions to interfere.

Although these factors create the potential for greater diversity in employment benefits, they may also lead to deterioration in employment wages and conditions.

The past few years, women's employment share has progressively increased. Enterprise bargaining has been promoted as enhancing the position of women employees and being "family friendly". However, as trade union representation at the workplace declines, as the application of awards and safety net protection is reduce, the position of the many low paid, non-career path women workers will become even more precarious.


Australia's previously high levels of union memberships have been due to the uncertain nature of the workplace and high levels of unemployment. These factors provoke employees to "join unions in the hope of greater job security" (Bodman, 1998). Union memberships peaked in the 1970s, when Australia faced periods of recession. In mid 1980s, union memberships fell to 46%, and continued...