UNSW Vice-Chancellor Professor Fred Hilmer this week launched a special edition of the UNSW journal Economic and Labour Relations Review, at a major symposium on the future of industrial relations after WorkChoices.
Distinguished keynote speakers and contributors to the special edition included Professor John Niland (former UNSW Vice-Chancellor), Professor Keith Hancock (Flinders University), and Professor Margaret Gardner (Vice Chancellor of RMIT University). Murray Wilcox QC, former Chief Justice of the Industrial Relations Court, and other expert contributors to the journal issue also presented.
Professor Niland described reactions to the NSW Green Paper on industrial relations 20 years ago. "Many of those who saw enterprise bargaining as the thin end of the American wedge today seek to re-establish this approach as WorkChoices is dismantled," he said.
All the plenary speakers noted that Australia had now shifted to a collective bargaining-based system, replacing individual bargaining under WorkChoices and the tribunal-based model that had marked Australia for most of the 20th century.
Nevertheless, they all spoke strongly in favour of a continuing role for an independent tribunal in setting minimum employment standards that would underpin the collective bargaining system - both for those with access to real bargaining and for those whose place in the labour market made them unable to bargain. They also called for a stronger safety-net of minimum standards given that changes in the labour market made more employees vulnerable.
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