The most notable would include: the 1976 Racial Discrimination Act, 1981 Handicapped Persons Equal Opportunity Act, the 1984 Equal Opportunity Act, 1989 Equal Opportunity Amendment Act -- Intellectual Disability, 1990 Equal Opportunity Amendment Act -- Age, 1993 Compulsory Retirement Abolished, 1997 Equal Opportunity Amendment Act -- Sexual Harassment and the 2009 Equal Opportunity Amendment Act -- New Grounds. ("History of Equal Opportunity in South Australia," 2010) These different laws are important, because they would attempt to provide a basic frame work for addressing the various forms of discrimination that were occurring in the workplace, in one form or another.
As a result, the power relationship that exists between employer and employees is continuing to evolve, based upon the various laws designed to prevent discrimination and the practices that were common in the past. A good example of this can be seen with the sexual harassment lawsuit that was filled by Kristy Fraser -- Kirk against her former employer David Jones. What happened was Kirk, alleges that during her employment with the company she was faced with the constant fear of sexual harassment from CEO Mark McInnes. When she followed the law and told him no repeatedly, McInnes continued with his pattern of behavior. The situation became so bad, that Kirk was forced to leave the company and is now filling a $37 million lawsuit against the firm. This is significant, because it shows the lawsuit is one of the largest sexual harassment lawsuits filed. Where, it is testing the various anti-discrimination laws that have been passed and it will determine the overall scope, of the law that they would apply. (Lahey, 2010)
The above example shows, how the relationship between employers and employees is continuing to evolve. Where, various laws and regulations have been enacted to prevent some of the abuses that would occur in the relationship at the hand of employers (discrimination). Yet, most of these laws face the scrutiny of constant legal interpretation from the courts. As the overall intent and the way they would apply to situations can be a matter of debate. Within these issues, are the heated emotions of the underlying issues of power that exists between: employers and their employees'. In many ways, one could argue that this relationship is continuing to evolve, based upon the power struggle that exists between the two sides. Where, both will attempt to use legal interpretations to maintain their current relationship. As a result, the overall nature of the relationship between employers and employees is shifting, to a variety of new battlefields.
Throughout its history, labor disputes have often been associated with the employer / employee relationship in Australia. As the different strikes that would occur throughout the mid to early 20th century would underscore; the heated differences between both sides. At the heart of most disputes was: the issues of higher wages, less hours and better working conditions. However, since the end of World War II, the number of labor disputes would decline dramatically. With most unions, enjoying a rise in power and prominence between the 1940's to the 1980's. Then, as the economy began to be affected, by the forces of globalization, meant that a shift would occur in how various labor disputes would be resolved. As many labor unions would begin to have less influence over industrial disputes. What happened was, the period between the 1980's and early 2000's would invite a time of low inflation and above average economic growth for the economy. These two issues would cause the number of industrial disputes to decline, as the low inflationary pressures would mean that unions would not feel the pressure, to ask for an increase in wages. At the same time, the economic growth that was being experienced would encourage many employees, to remain quite about various industrial related issues. Then, when you combine this with the different laws / regulations that were passed during that time (such as the anti-discrimination laws), meant that many employees would become more laid back when it came to disputes in the workplace. These factors are important, because they would signal how: the underlying economic conditions, various regulations and low inflation would make many workers throughout the commonwealth complacent. As the decades of growth, would limit the overall number of industrial disputes dramatically. (Perry, 2005)
The periods of economic growth and stability, would also mean that country's unemployment rate would remain low for long periods of time. This meant, that workers would have a choice as to who they wanted to work for and what kinds of behavior they were willing to tolerate. As this was taking place, there would be pressure around the world during the late 1980's and into the 1990's, to reduce trade barriers and various trade restrictions. One of the most notable of protectionist policies was collective bargaining. This is where unions would have the power to negotiate with employers (on behalf of employees) pertaining to issues such as: wages, benefits, working conditions and discrimination. During the 1980's these amounts of power that workers would have through the unions, was believed to be hurting the ability of the economy to remain competitive on a global scale. At the same time, the downfall of the Soviet Union; would mean that there was more of an emphasis around the world, to embrace the ideas of free trade. (Perry, 2005) Since free trade works off of the principal of reducing trade barriers and lowering labor costs as much as possible, meant that a shift would occur in the relationship between the employer and the employee. As a result, the Work Choices Act was established in 2002, through the Howard government. The idea of the legislation was: to redefine the labor relationship that existed in Australia. The way to do this was: to strip the unions of their power in the way, they use collective bargaining to settle various disputes. This meant that employers would be able to have individual labor agreements with employees. The idea was that each employer could be able to more accurately determine the needs of the business, by having individual contracts that would protect the individual, while giving the employer the flexibility to set wages and benefits. This is important, because the law would severely limit the ability of the unions to influence employees, by making it difficult for them to: engage in strikes, work stoppages, slow downs, secret ballots, over time bans and work to work rules. (Holt, 2010) This is significant, because it would underscore a radical shift that was occurring in the employer / employee relationship. Where, the Howard government wanted to restore the balance of power towards employers, by giving them greater to control to negotiate individually with each employee. While at the same time they were trying to limit the power of the unions during the process as much as possible. This was an attempt by the government, to redefine the relationship of industrial disputes, by limiting the overall amounts of influence that unions could have in the process.
The effects of the Work Choices Act were so extreme, that it would lead to the dissolution of the Howard government in 2007. Since that time, the nature of relationship between employers and employees has begun to shift in the opposite direction. What happened was the new government would pass the Fair Work Act of 2009. Under the different provisions of the law, the balance of power was titled towards employees. Where, the Act would give them a number of different protections to include: minimum weekly work hours, parental leave / entitlements, annual leave, the right to flexible working arrangements, community service leave, public holidays, long service leave, notice of termination / redundancy pay, it gives employees the right to seek independent counsel / advice and it restores the collective bargaining system. This is important, because it would underscore a shift that occurred, as the power of the employer / employee relationship would move back towards the employee. ("Fair Work Act 2009," 2009)
What all of this shows, is that when it comes to the issue of industrial disputes a continuation of the trend in other areas has been taking place. Where, a shift is occurring in the nature of the employer / employee relationship, as both sides will seek to use the various laws / regulations to gain an advantage over the other. For the most part, this shift was moving in the in favor of various employers. However, once the global financial crisis began and the Howard government imposed radical changes (through the Work Choices Act), it became obvious that the balance was to extreme. At which point, a shift would occur, in effort to restore a medium between protecting the rights of employees, while giving employers enough flexibility to run their business efficiently. This is the continuing nature of the uneven relationship in labor, as the different laws…