International Journal of Comparative Labour Law and Industrial Relations

Volume 22 (2006)

Volume 22 (2006) / Issue 3

SHELLEY MARSHALL, RICHARD MITCHELL, 'Enterprise Bargaining, Managerial Prerogative and the Protection of Workers? Rights: An Argument on the Role of Law and Regulatory Strategy in Australia under the Workplace Relations Act 1996 (Cth)' (2006) 22 International Journal of Comparative Labour Law and Industrial Relations, Issue 3, pp. 299–327


Abstract: Since the beginning of the 1990s successive Australian national governments (from both right and left of the political spectrum) have overseen a shift in the regulation of employment relations from one based on centralised arbitrated awards to one of enterprise bargaining. The ostensible purpose of this policy was to facilitate the development of workplace-focused systems of regulation which were sensitive to the need for flexible production and employment systems in the context of the global economy. The evidence suggests that whilst many of the objectives of the enterprise bargaining project have been attained (particularly the goal of greater flexibility in employment systems), the law has been less effective in protecting the interests of workers, particularly their power to influence decision-making at the place of work. The major impact of enterprise bargaining upon the workplace, the paper proposes, has been the restoration of managerial prerogative which previously had been mediated through arbitration or the power of trade unions. Finally, the paper draws conclusions on the changing role of the institutions which regulate Australian industrial relations. Historically, Australian industrial tribunals have combined the features of judicial bodies and regulatory agencies. The paper concludes that a shift is occurring in Australian labour law from a mixture of self-regulation and centralised ?command and control?, to ?enforced self-regulation?, thus signalling a systemic and profound reorientation in regulatory policy and technique in Australian labour market regulation

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ISSN: 0952-617X
ID: IJCL2006016