Wednesday, June 22, 2005

IR reviews

Someone asked me ages ago to write about what I thought about the imminent IR 'reforms' and I still haven't got around to it. It is a subject that I feel that I know very little about and don't really feel confident talking about it. Still, I am slowly getting a clearer idea as to where things are going, and it is, well, scary.

However, a good overview of the changes and their potential effects are found here, in the form of a 'report card' on the government's IR reform process, produced by a range of IR and labour market academics. They feel that it is a good idea that "industrial relations policies should be informed and led by research and evidence". Reasonable.

They conclude that the reforms will:

  • Undermine people's rights at work

  • Deliver a flexibility that in most cases is one way, favouring employers

  • Do - at best - nothing to address work family issues

  • Have no direct impact on productivity

  • Disadvantage the individuals and groups already most marginalised in Australian society

  • In addition to the overview page there is a range of accompanying (draft) papers that are of interest. I am currently looking at the one on wage inequality by Peter Saunders (the 'good' one, not the 'evil' one). Keep you posted on that one.

    The only thing that I can add at the moment is that any negative effects that are to be felt now are only going to be amplified in times of lower (or negative) economic growth. If these reforms are increasing the market power of the employer at the moment, with unemployment at one of its lowest levels for donkey's years, what is going to happen if/when things get a bit tighter? This extra leverage in the labour market will be fully utilised by employers and the consequences realised by employees in times of economic downturn and an excess supply of labour. You think that it is bad now, just wait.

    On the upside, with the collection and concentration of control of the IR realm by the federal government, if a Labor government was to return to power (hah!), they would be able to institute their changes.
    (Whatever such changes would be... how the fuck would I know what the ALP are thinking? They are such non-entity. Come on guys, we are talking about worker's rights here)

    Thanks to Robert for pointing me towards the UNSW page. It is both interesting and useful.


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