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A timeline of industrial relations in Australia which outlines significant historical changes. About the AIRC. Our role. Overview of the major functions of the Australian Industrial Relations Commission (AIRC). AIRC members. Description of the. The national workplace relations system is established by the Fair Work Act and other laws and covers the majority of private sector.
The passage of the Trade Union Acts in the 19th century made it legal for the first time for workers to negotiate collectively with their employers over wages and conditions.
In a world first, stonemasons in Melbourne became the first group of industrial workers to win the eight-hour day.
These over-award payments got out of hand and were regarded as having significant inflationary effects. In the s wage inflation was a major social and economic problem. The award system really struggled to deal with it because in practical terms there was no means of enforcing the norms of the system. Breen Creighton, Honorary Professor of Law, RMIT During the severe depression of the s, employers tried to wind back the gains that unions had made on behalf of their members over the previous 30 years.
Workplace Relations and Employment- The Australian Industry Group
Starting with the Melbourne maritime dispute inemployers inflicted a series of catastrophic defeats on the trade union movement. Membership was decimated and unions had very limited capacity to negotiate on favourable terms, if they could get employers to negotiate at all.
Meanwhile, a number of colonial politicians, most notably Charles Kingston, then South Australian premier, began to look at compulsory conciliation and arbitration. The idea was that if employers refused to negotiate with unions, then the law would provide a mechanism for unions to access an independent tribunal.Industrial Relations and Respectful Relationships
If bosses and workers were still unable to negotiate an agreed outcome, the tribunal—an independent party—could impose a settlement on both sides. This led to around 6 months of industrial confusion until the Australian Industrial Relations Commission handed down the landmark decision of the Schefenacker, the Murray Bridge and the La Trobe University certified agreements ' the three certified agreements case '.
Role[ edit ] From to the Australian Industrial Relations Commission under its various names made awards which set the minimum terms and conditions of employment for workers who worked for certain employers or within certain industries.
A standard award would have approximately 20—30 conditions and would be around 40 pages in length. The Awards were reviewed periodically.
Workplace Relations and Employment
The AIRC would also certify enterprise bargaining agreements. These agreements were negotiated collective contracts commonly between a union as representative of the employees on a site and an employer of the site.
The AIRC also registered trade unions and dealt with demarcation disputes between unions. Finally, the AIRC dealt with unfair dismissal applications. Its wage-setting powers were largely transferred to the Australian Fair Pay Commission.
The history of industrial relations in Australia
The AIRC's primary role instead became that of award "modernisation", with limited dispute-settling powers, and hearing of unfair dismissal applications.
Australian Trade Union Archives. Archived from the original on 7 February