Comparing employment relations of different law
Governments have several important roles in building the relationship between employers and employees. This is because governments have the power to either set or influence the wider economic, social or legal framework within which the relationship of employment takes place. These are the roles that governments play in relation to employment relations: economic manager, legislator, model employer, industrial peacekeeper, international participant and cultural change agent. The roles mentioned shows how government affects employment relations whether it is direct or indirect (Balnave et al. 2009, p. 65).
As an economic leader, government has to implement policies that are in line with their political programs and balance the income and expenses of the country in a responsible way. The government has the responsibility to set the rules that the parties involve follows and as a result of those set rules a certain relationship between the parties is built and in that manner the role as a legislator occur. As we all know the government itself also is an employer and in that sense it can influence employment relations maybe not directly but by means of applying the policies to their own employees it can actually influence private employers on how they would deal with their own company and employees. When there are disputes in a workplace the government intervene as an industrial peacekeeper to settle the issues. Another role of the government is as an international participant. In this role the government should participate in some international gatherings held by different United Nations and International Labour Organisation to assure that country meets the standards set by globally recognised organisations. By participating in those gatherings the government learn more and new ideas from other governments that may help improve the existing situation in their jurisdiction. It may also help the government solve issues and disputes. The participation of the government in the said gatherings may also improve their credibility and reputation internationally. Government plays the role of a cultural change agent by the ideology that they apply while they are in the position and the longer a particular government is in the position the greater its influence to the cultural change would be (Balnave et al. 2009, pp. 65-71).
Both Australian government and US government are under a common law which is a legal tradition of the English law. One similar role of the Australian government and the US government in relation to employment relations is that they both decide for the policies for a specific span of time and implement these policies within their respective parliament. Both governments form the relationship between the employers and the employees because they are the only one who has the power to set its framework by creating and implementing law. In the same manner they both play a significant role in their territory. It is impossible for the government not to affect labour relations because they are connected in somehow may it be directly or indirectly. Another similarity of the two governments is that with regards to employment laws the federal law overrides the state law. When there is a conflict between the federal law and the state law, federal law is the one that should be applied.
In Australia, every worker can choose whether to be or not to be a member of a union. If one chooses to become a member of a union the worker is obliged to pay union fees and if a worker chooses not to join the union the worker is free from paying fees but with regards to collective bargaining, union bargains collectively and if what they are aiming or negotiating is granted, all workers would be benefited regardless if a worker is a member of a union or not.
Workers in US can join a traditional labour union if the employer recognises them or if majority of the workers in the workplace voted for that union to represent them. Public sector union in each of the fifty states is being controlled and directed by the labour law and labour boards. It is regulated partly by the federal law and partly by state law. On the other hand, the private sector union is being controlled under the rules of the National Labour Relations Act or NLRA which was passed in 1935. Unlike in Australia, US have Labour education programs, like the Harvard Trade Union Program, which sought to educate labour union members on how to deal with issues regarding labour and their workplace.
Enforcing the NLRA in the middle of great depression had been difficult. In order for it to become successful, it needed the resources, time and most importantly the support of the whole nation. (Dannin, 2009) Considering the type of technology they have way back then it must have been really hard. That just proved that the role of the government in implementing policies is really a challenge for them ever since.
For over one hundred fifty years, Australian trade unions have played a significant role in the framework of the industrial relations of the country (McPhail & Wilkinson 2009, p. 41). In 1927, Australian Council of Trade Unions or ACTU was established. Basically it is formed with the goal of improving the working condition of the workers and also to improve the life of these working people and their families. Majority of Australian trade unions are represented by the ACTU. This organisation is recognised by the public and Australian media as the representative of all workers’ organisation. It also represents Australian unionism in the national arena.
On the other hand, compared to Australian unions which is under only one National trade union organisation, most of the US labour unions are members of the these two National trade union organisation which are the American Federation of Labor-Congress of Industrial Organizations or AFL-CIO and Change to Win Federation or CtW. These two organisations push policies that are in favour of the workers in US and Canada.
The very reason why unionism starts is because of those business owners and employers that are trying to cut the cost of their operation which is a result of the stiff competition between businesses. Employers tend to hire those people that are willing to be paid less. There were also instances when workers are working in an unsafe working environment risking their life and safety in exchange of a small amount of money. There were also times when people are forced to work long hours.
Both Australia and US are members of the International Labour Organisation or ILO which is an organisation under United Nations that is specialised in dealing with labour union issues. Being a member, both countries are committed to abide by the principles of the ILO which includes freedom of association. This means that the employers and employees can form and join association to protect their interests providing that they are not interfering with one another. Considering that they follow the same standards they aim more or less for the same outcomes or results in regarding with their employment relations.
In 2005, the Australian government under Howard introduced the Work Choices legislation and was implemented it on March 2006. According to Kriesler and Nevile (2008) ‘One characteristic of this legislation was the anti-union bias that permeated it.’ This Act had been more favourable to employers than to employees because the opportunity of the employers to make a contract that is more favourable to them rather than the employees had increased.
After the Work Choices, the Fair Work Act on July 1, 2009 to replace the Workplace Relations Act 1996. Its implementation is mainly a result of the drive to have a unified national industrial relations system. This new independent body was established mainly to assist employers and employees. It is the only national government agency for labour in Australia. It has the power to set the minimum wage, resolve disputes between employers and employees, decide regarding unfair dismissal claims, approves agreements regarding workplace matters. Together with the implementation of this new umpire are some changes that had affect or change the existing employment relations. At present, the new Gillard government is just like the Rudd Government. There haven’t been changes made yet. We still have to see what changes would be made and what would be its effect to employment relations in Australia.
On an employers’ point of view, the global financial crisis and the implementation of the Fair Work Act on 2009 had dominantly affect industrial relations in Australia. Todd (2009, p. 305) Global crisis in 2009 had a great effect to owners and employers in different firms and industry in different countries worldwide but the implementation of the Fair Work Act in Australia added to their struggle. There has also been another problem which is the skills shortage in Australia that pushed the government to allow the entry of the 457 visa holders to cover the shortage in skills.
Unions did not like having the 457 visa because they say that it is causing disadvantages to them like the wage being forced down by the employers, having a lesser safety standards and worker exploitation. Some employers offensively breach their 457 obligations. There are some reported instances of employers withholding pay from workers. Some unions also believed that by the use of the 457 workers their industrial relations bargaining power is being weaken. Due to unions political campaigning, the requirement for 457 visa holders has been increased by the government. Phillips (2008, p.16)
Obamma won the 2008 US election and the first law he signed was the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act. The bill allows lawsuits regarding pay discrimination to proceed even if it is already decades ago. If a person believes that he or she had experienced wage discrimination, even if it is thirty years ago, he or she can file lawsuit to have a claim for the wage and damage with interest for the potential lost wages. The said act would cause problem because it will cause flood of endless lawsuits and it means trial lawyers will have endless employment. Trial lawyers will also dig on some cases that maybe a probable case about pay discrimination and aim the alleged victim if he or she wants to file a case. This act will also cause employers to change their entire employment process in order to avoid having cases of pay discrimination against them in the future (Jhonson, 2009). Digging too much on a history may really be a big problem when there are already problems at present that should be solved first. It is the future, I think, that is more important to give attention.
At present there is a bill that is proposed in US. It is the Employee Free Choice Act. This proposed bill aims to improve the National Labour Relations Act. It will allow workers to form union by majority sign up and card-checks. If the union got majority of the vote, the Bill will allow the certification of the union as the official union to bargain with the employer. It will also oblige the union and employer to enter into a binding arbitration in order to come up with a collective agreement. This bill will also increase the employers’ penalty for discriminating employees because of being involved with the union.
If the senate passed this bill, every worker should sign a union card. The union organisers should have at least thirty percent votes from the total workers in the company in order for them to form a union. Every vote will be made open to the employer, the union organisers and the co-workers. Everybody will know how each and everyone of them voted. That’s when a problem might happen. If a worker didn’t vote for the union everybody will know. He cannot protect himself and his family from those who are pro-union.
Analyzing the situation of Australia and US with regards to the said problems, it is very obvious that both countries are having difficulties in implementing policies. Their role as a peace maker is always relevant to be played.
Employers’ association plays a very significant role when it comes to employment relations. Just as important as the labour unions representing employees it is also important for the employers to have an organisation to represent and guide them. An employer association represents a group of employers that has the same interests and belongs to the same industry. It has the aim of promoting and representing their ideas and concerns. It often helps negotiate awards. It is formed to counter the influence and rise of trade unions.
Employers’ associations’ impact and role in employment relations in Australia under Howard Government has changed in the past twelve years and it is via political lobbying. Jerrard and Woolcock (2009, p. 38) Lobbying is when a change in government is likely to happen these associations have agents who take the role of political lobbyist, given that the actions of the government affects the competitive standing of businesses and industries and it has been a practice in Australian politics.
Political lobbying has also been a practice in US and is accepted and omnipresent part of their political system but in contrast to lobbying in Australia, lobbying in US is protected by the right to petition.
In the system of lobbying, lobbyist whom is the agent or representative of the employers’ association is the seller and the legislator is the buyer. The seller sells opinions, ideas and expertise. Hoping to make a sale, the corporate salespeople try to establish a personal relationship with the buyer. The seller also hopes to establish a long term profitable relationship with the buyer. Though this process is acceptable to a business point of view it is still a question whether it is acceptable in a political point of view considering that the larger society and the citizens who are the ones being more affected by these activities wasn’t involved in the actual negotiation between the seller and the buyer. Grimaldi (1998, p. 247) Accepted or not lobbying has already been a normal activity in between both the Australian and American employers’ association and their government.
After gathering some information and the readings that I’ve done about the Australian and US government, labour unions and employment association I have come to the conclusion that in relations to their roles in employment relation in their respective country they both have the same roles. They may be different in some aspects or factors but the role they are playing are so much the same considering that their aims are also the same. The government’s major role, aside from creating and implementing policies that builds the framework of employment relations, it also have the role to come between the labour union and the employers association regarding disputes between Labour union Labour unions in both countries also have the same major role which is improving the working condition of every worker and also to improve the workers’ and their families’ life too. While the employers’ associations in both country aims to protect their interests and promote their ideas to the point that they tend to influence the government by means of lobbying.
I have also realized that regardless of what country, roles of union, employers’ association and government are likely the same. Union’s role is to represents every worker and aims to protect their rights and to be given a better working condition while employer association’s role is to represent owners and employers and they aim to protect their interests. Whether how big or small a firm is, they have to protect their investments. Government, being the only who has the power to create and implement policies which builds the framework of employment relation, they have to settle disputes between unions and employers’ association. The problem that I see that may be common to different countries is that sometimes people cannot avoid looking after their own personal interests that causes the imbalance between their relationships with each other. If only every people, whether they belong to unions, employers or the government, would think for the betterment of the majority and avoid being greedy maybe by then disputes between them would be avoided.