The paper "Current Policy Issue: Collective Bargaining Under the Fair Work Act 2009" is a good example of a literature review on politics. According to Sandford (1985, p. 4), a policy is “ a set of decisions which are oriented towards a long-term purpose or to a particular problem” . Policies are coordinated mainly by politicians in an attempt to ameliorate problems that exist in society. Policies can include government instruments such as regulations, quotas, taxes and subsidies among others (Sandford 1985). Following the above definition, this paper has identified the collective bargaining provisions in parts 2-4 of the Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth) (hereunder FW Act) as the policy issue for discussion.
Unlike the past workplace relations systems that included different streams of making agreements between the employer and the employee(s), collective bargaining in the FW Act requires a single stream of making enterprise agreements, and through the requirement, it forces employees and employers to take a more collaborative approach during the negotiations. When it was first introduced, scholars such as Forsyth (2012) drew similarities between the FW Act (in relation to the collective bargaining provisions) and the National Labour Relations Act 1935 (NLRA) of the US.
This paper will, therefore, draw the similarities and differences between the FW Act and the NLRA, determine how the two affect businesses in their respective countries and make conclusions about which of the two is a better policy choice. This paper, however, recognises that Australia and the US are two different countries, whose social, cultural, political, economic and legal environments may require different policies for similar situations. As such, the determination of which of the aforementioned policies would be a better choice will be based on their usefulness in the different countries where they are used. FW Act and NLRA Parts 2-4 of the FW Act are better understood within the larger context of the Act, which states its overarching objective as the provision “ of a balanced framework for cooperative and productive workplace relations that promote national economic prosperity and social inclusion for all Australians” (FW Act 2009, section 3).
In section 3 (f), the Act indicates that the emphasis on collective bargaining is meant to achieve productivity and fairness, which is underpinned “ by simple good faith obligations” .
According to Cooper and Ellem (2008), the FW Act had a clear policy purpose intended to encourage collective bargaining. Evidently, the policy aim was a shift from past government regimes (especially from 1996 to 2007), which placed no obligations on the employer to recognise employees’ preferences as expressed in collective bargaining agreements. Additionally, the FW Act recognised that individuals had a recognisable right to bargain for an agreement. Forsyth (2012, p. 211) identifies “ the promotion of democratic values” as another policy objective that the Australian Labour government intended to attain through the collective bargaining provisions of the FW Act.
In other words, the Labour government aimed to see the will of the majority of employees prevail in workplaces, especially if they (employees) wished to bargain with the employer. Other democratic elements in the collective bargaining provision provide for the employees’ rights to representation, freedom of association, and freedom from discrimination (Rudd & Gillard 2007, p. 12). Enhancing workplace productivity is also another policy goal that parts 2-4 of the FW Act sought to attain (Forsyth 2012).
Through collective bargaining for enterprise agreements, it is argued that employers and the employees would have the chance to link pay and benefits to productivity in the workplace. Additionally, employers will have a chance to indicate the financial situation of the company, thus providing a clearer indication to the employees to the need to boost productivity (Forsyth 2012).
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