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Analysis and Comment (54)

Workers with skills and motivation perform at a higher level, regardless of workplace reform. Workers with skills and motivation perform at a higher level, regardless of workplace reform. Salle-Ann/Flickr

Workplace deregulation won’t boost productivity

Arguments for reform of workplace relations never go away. The central claim made by numerous commentators is that reform aimed at “freeing up” the labour market and workplaces is the key to improving…
Calls by AWU chief Paul Howes for a “grand compact” are fanciful, but he’s right we need to shift our thinking away from a focus on yet another round of IR reform. Calls by AWU chief Paul Howes for a “grand compact” are fanciful, but he’s right we need to shift our thinking away from a focus on yet another round of IR reform. AAP

Howls of horror understandable, but Howes half right about IR reform

It is easy to see why media coverage of Paul Howes’ National Press Club address has focused on his claims that wage growth has been too high in some areas and that the adversarial industrial relations…
The CFMEU says corruption within the building industry should be referred to the police for prosecution, but the government is looking to a revived ABCC. The CFMEU says corruption within the building industry should be referred to the police for prosecution, but the government is looking to a revived ABCC. Julian Smith/AAP

Bikies, unions … and the ABCC? Spinning the policing of work

Recent investigations into the Construction Forestry Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU) by the ABC and Fairfax have revealed relationships between rogue union officials, underworld figures and outlaw motorcycle…
Toyota is the ‘last man standing’ in Australian car manufacturing, but it needs to shift from an ‘us and them’ approach to industrial relations. Toyota is the ‘last man standing’ in Australian car manufacturing, but it needs to shift from an ‘us and them’ approach to industrial relations. Alan Porritt/AAP

Toyota needs a new approach to avoid the road to nowhere

The Productivity Commission will today release the preliminary report of its inquiry into Australian automotive manufacturing industries, ensuring the future of car manufacturing in Australia continues…
Nearly strike o'clock. Nearly strike o'clock. Steve Parsons/PA

Both Boris and unions are wrong on tube strikes

London’s tube users face disruption in the New Year as the unions threaten strike action. Debate on the subject is as heated as ever, with both sides racing for the moral high ground. But, though London…
The Falkirk juggernaut rumbles on. The Falkirk juggernaut rumbles on. David Cheskin/PA Wire/Press Association Images

Falkirk saga plays right into Cameron’s hands

After the controversies of the past few weeks, the coalition government has launched a review of trade union tactics, to be led by Bruce Carr QC. The issue of union activities and the relationship between…
Treasurer Joe Hockey admits the government’s ‘open for business’ promise must be followed up with action. Treasurer Joe Hockey admits the government’s ‘open for business’ promise must be followed up with action. Alan Porritt/AAP

Abbott’s ‘open for business’ honeymoon is over

From a three-and-a-half year high last month, business confidence data for October shows the post-election honeymoon is over, with business conditions continuing to underperform in non-mining sectors…
Today would be a great day to strike. Today would be a great day to strike. PA

Royal Mail strikes will damage businesses - including their own

News that Royal Mail workers are to go on strike on 4 November is unlikely to be received well by the general public or the business community. The usual threat of strikes in the run-up to Christmas will…
Wage bargaining conditions may well change under a coalition government. Wage bargaining conditions may well change under a coalition government. AAP

What do new disclosures reveal about Coalition IR policy?

Two unexpected disclosures have refocused attention on the Coalition industrial relations policy before the election. The first was further detail from workplace relations shadow minister Eric Abetz about…
Catch up on ABC’s Q&A program from Monday night. Catch up on ABC’s Q&A program from Monday night.

FactCheck Q&A: are wages steady, disputes down and productivity up?

“Wages in Australia are moving reasonably at between 3.2 and 3.5%. We are not getting overrun by wage claims in Australia. Secondly, the assumption that everyone is on strike is not correct. The average…
Competitiveness and productivity are top priorities in Kevin Rudd’s economic policy agenda. Competitiveness and productivity are top priorities in Kevin Rudd’s economic policy agenda. AAP

Rudd’s economic blueprint is a timely election pitch to business

Yesterday, Kevin Rudd set about outlining the broad terrain of economic policy to be pursued in this his second stint as Prime Minister. In his speech to the Press Club, the PM highlighted seven core drivers…
While young women are rising through Australian media ranks, the old glass ceiling remains. While young women are rising through Australian media ranks, the old glass ceiling remains. Woman reporter image from www.shutterstock.com

Women overtake men in the media, but not in pay or power

Women now outnumber men in the Australian media, but they are typically younger, earn less and have less powerful positions than male colleagues. A new national survey shows women now make up 55.5% of…
Ignore the hype: the Coalition’s IR policy won’t boost productivity in Australia. Ignore the hype: the Coalition’s IR policy won’t boost productivity in Australia. Paul Miller/ AAP

Coalition’s productivity obsession makes for flawed IR policy

More than jobs, inflation, security or disputation, the Coalition’s just-released policy on industrial relations claims to be about productivity. The policy is replete with over 30 references to “productivity…
The coalition’s industrial relations policy is likely to disappoint small business. The coalition’s industrial relations policy is likely to disappoint small business. AAP

Tony’s timid IR strategy – not much there for small business

Tony Abbott’s industrial relations strategy has received a less than rapturous response from both business and trade unions. The Business Council of Australia and the Australian Industry Group have criticised…
Tony Abbott’s industrial relations policy launch attempts to neutralise Labor’s advantage and bed down fears of a resurgence of WorkChoices. Tony Abbott’s industrial relations policy launch attempts to neutralise Labor’s advantage and bed down fears of a resurgence of WorkChoices.

The end of the IR wars? Coalition moves to neutralise Labor

Industrial relations is the one area of public policy that traditionally marks a major fault line between the Coalition parties and Labor. It is also one area of policy where neither side finds it easy…
Opposition leader Tony Abbott at the launch of his politically cautious industrial relations policy today in Sydney. Opposition leader Tony Abbott at the launch of his politically cautious industrial relations policy today in Sydney. AAP/Paul Miller

Abbott announces soft touch workplace policy

Unions' power would be curbed under an Abbott government, with more restrictions put on their right of entry to workplaces and a time limit imposed for concluding “greenfield agreements” for new projects…
President Obama has proposed raising the minimum wage from $7.25 to $9, reigniting the debate about the effect of a wage hike on unemployment. President Obama has proposed raising the minimum wage from $7.25 to $9, reigniting the debate about the effect of a wage hike on unemployment. flickr\brianwallace

Obama’s pledge to raise the minimum wage is good policy

In his State of the Union address, US President Barack Obama reignited a perennial debate in his proposal to increase the minimum wage from its current level of $7.25 an hour to $9.00 an hour. Advocating…
This election year, taxation, industrial relations and red tape will feature prominently on the business community’s agenda. This election year, taxation, industrial relations and red tape will feature prominently on the business community’s agenda. AAP

This election year, business will push for a triumph of policy over paralysis

The business community was effectively sidelined at the last federal election, and they felt somewhat miffed about it. Business associations were caught flat-footed at the suddenness of Julia Gillard’s…
Workplace Relations Minister Bill Shorten has ruled out making any sweeping changes to the Fair Work Act. Workplace Relations Minister Bill Shorten has ruled out making any sweeping changes to the Fair Work Act. AAP

Fair Work Act review: weighing up the evidence, the spin and the wedge

The post implementation review of the Fair Work Act, 2009, was released this afternoon. A three member panel – Professor Ron McCallum, Dr John Edwards and Michael Moore – produced the three hundred–odd…
If the government is serious about maintaining its economic prosperity into the future, it needs to address Australia’s historically poor productivity growth. If the government is serious about maintaining its economic prosperity into the future, it needs to address Australia’s historically poor productivity growth. Ann Douglas

Australia’s productivity problem: why it matters

The majority of Australians would prefer higher living standards. This can take the form of better access to better healthcare services and education, better environmental outcomes, more time for friends…
Australia’s global competitiveness has slipped, according to a global study: but it is worth exploring some of its assumptions. Australia’s global competitiveness has slipped, according to a global study: but it is worth exploring some of its assumptions. AAP

World competitiveness rankings: what do they tell us?

The IMD World Competitiveness Rankings released this week are worth reflecting on, not so much because of the relative positioning of various countries - including Australia - but rather because of the…
Industrial relations in Australia is captive to antagonistic histories. Industrial relations in Australia is captive to antagonistic histories.

Enough rope: Why allowing room to move could liberate the Fair Work Act

“The object of [the Fair Work] Act is to provide a balanced framework for cooperative and productive workplace relations that promotes national economic prosperity and social inclusion for all Australians…
Toyota has culled 350 workers from its Altona plant, based on an assessment system that rated individuals' performance. Toyota has culled 350 workers from its Altona plant, based on an assessment system that rated individuals' performance. AAP

Toyota’s ‘low-productivity’ workers and the problem of performance assessment

As if losing their jobs wasn’t bad enough in a contracting local economy, the 350 laid-off workers from the Toyota plant in Altona, also leave with the stigma of being a “low-productivity” worker or, colloquially…
Victorian nurses have been clashing with the Victorian government for months. Victorian nurses have been clashing with the Victorian government for months. AAP/Joe Castro

Nurses' dispute with Baillieu highlights pressure on Australia’s ailing healthcare system

The dispute between the Australian Nursing Federation and Victoria’s Baillieu government is expected to be resolved today. Nurses ceased industrial action two weeks ago. For the Victorian community it…
Apprenticeships are an integral part of our workforce. Apprenticeships are an integral part of our workforce. AAP

It’s time to overhaul Australia’s apprenticeship scheme

The ACTU is escalating a push through its case with Fair Work Australia to improve the wages of apprentices, many of whom are paid below the poverty line. There is a case for this and it is long overdue…
Qantas chief executive Alan Joyce’s announced job cuts again places him in conflict with unions. Qantas chief executive Alan Joyce’s announced job cuts again places him in conflict with unions. AAP

More union conflict likely to come as Qantas cuts jobs

Plans announced by Qantas to cut 500 jobs have been greeted with dismay by unions, who have warned they will hold chief executive Alan Joyce to his promise that maintenance jobs will not go overseas. Qantas…
An early agreement with at least one Qantas union has been reached despite strong rhetoric on both sides. An early agreement with at least one Qantas union has been reached despite strong rhetoric on both sides. AAP

The Qantas disputes: one agreement made, two to go?

Qantas management has made an early agreement with the Australian Licensed Aircraft Engineers Association (ALAEA) in a deal that reflects compromise by both parties, despite earlier strong rhetoric from…
Dissatisfaction over the recent shutdown by Qantas surprisingly may not affect loyalty. Dissatisfaction over the recent shutdown by Qantas surprisingly may not affect loyalty. AAP

Air travellers can’t get no satisfaction – but it doesn’t make them less loyal

Is it the comfort of the seats, the high standard of the food or the friendliness of the cabin crew that has us using the same airline time after time? According to recent research we conducted at the…
The idea that Australians work longer hours than workers from other countries is a myth. The idea that Australians work longer hours than workers from other countries is a myth. Flickr/hongoxl

Time after time: the myth that Australians work longer hours than anyone else

Many economic and social commentators, including the University of Canberra’s Josh Fear on The Conversation yesterday, continue to express concern about the number of hours many Australians spend doing…
Workers are finding it increasingly difficult to leave work on time or enjoy their free time. Workers are finding it increasingly difficult to leave work on time or enjoy their free time. Flickr/Floris M. Oosterveld

You there, make sure you go home on time today (or why Australians do so much unpaid work)

Today is national Go Home on Time Day, the one day of the year that you can work the hours you are paid for and no more – without feeling guilty. Since The Australia Institute first declared Go Home on…
International examples show that quicker access to arbitration could have avoided the drastic action taken by Qantas chief Alan Joyce. International examples show that quicker access to arbitration could have avoided the drastic action taken by Qantas chief Alan Joyce. AAP

Qantas case shows the need for interest arbitration

As the Qantas dispute moves into the arbitration phase in Fair Work Australia (FWA), it is timely to consider whether the tests for access to arbitration under the Fair Work Act need refining. Prompted…
Will arbitration by Fair Work Australia provide the outcome Qantas chief Alan Joyce wants? Not necessarily. Will arbitration by Fair Work Australia provide the outcome Qantas chief Alan Joyce wants? Not necessarily. AAP

The Qantas dispute: What next and a recap

Memo to the Qantas public relations team: if you mount a Twitter campaign calling for travellers' luxury flying experiences in the middle of an unresolved industrial dispute, be aware there might be a…
After 20 years of enterprise bargaining, are we seeing an unintended return to compulsory arbitration? After 20 years of enterprise bargaining, are we seeing an unintended return to compulsory arbitration? AAP

First Qantas, now nurses. Has the IR game changed?

With the threat of further industrial action at Qantas looming and Victorian nurses continuing with their rolling work bans, you could be forgiven for thinking that Australia has entered a new phase of…
Alan Joyce walked with staff in August - but what will win them back now? Alan Joyce walked with staff in August - but what will win them back now? AAP

How might Qantas rebuild relations with its workforce?

It is possible to rebuild relations after major disputes. British Airways is currently trying to do just that after a long industrial-relations dispute with many of its flight attendants. Qantas’s CEO…
An adversarial approach is not the only - or even the best - way to resolve the Qantas dispute. An adversarial approach is not the only - or even the best - way to resolve the Qantas dispute. AAP

Bargaining the Qantas way: how not to run an industrial dispute

Nearly all of the analysis and critique of the Qantas saga since the grounding has turned on the designs of principal players, their behaviours in the moment and the vagaries of the Fair Work Act. It has…
There is more behind the Qantas lockout than short-term industrial disputes. There is more behind the Qantas lockout than short-term industrial disputes. AAP

Qantas is waving the Australian flag … goodbye

As the initial shock of the Qantas lockout of its workforce abates, it is time to consider the wider implications of this action. One lesson is the folly of national identification of companies that are…
More turmoil, not closure, is likely to be ahead of Qantas following last week’s industrial action. More turmoil, not closure, is likely to be ahead of Qantas following last week’s industrial action. AAP

The future of Australian air travel may belong to international airlines, not Qantas

Following on from Qantas CEO Alan Joyce’s controversial decision to lock out staff and ground the entire fleet, there has been a flurry of writing – in The Conversation and across the world – on the rights…
In debate over the Qantas IR dispute, the truth of the Fair Work Act is the elephant in the room. In debate over the Qantas IR dispute, the truth of the Fair Work Act is the elephant in the room. AAP

Before calling for reform, let’s get our Fair Work facts straight

The drawn-out dispute between Qantas and unions that led to the airline’s entire fleet being grounded over the weekend has sparked calls for reform of Australia’s industrial relations laws. Business leaders…
Qantas flights are back in the air after Fair Work Australia ordered the termination of industrial action. Qantas flights are back in the air after Fair Work Australia ordered the termination of industrial action. AAP

Fair Work Australia decision reveals the flaw in Qantas' strategy

The Fair Work Australia (FWA) decision on the Qantas industrial dispute makes it clear the action by the three unions was not enough to trigger a decision by FWA to terminate the bargaining periods. A…
FWA used legislation enacted in 1993 to protect the economy from protracted industrial action. FWA used legislation enacted in 1993 to protect the economy from protracted industrial action. AAP

Why Fair Work Australia terminated the Qantas industrial action

Read the Fair Work Australia decision here Read Roy Green, Dean of UTS Business School: Planes set to fly again - but what now for Qantas? Read our previous coverage here The decision by Fair Work Australia…
Qantas management have taken a risky approach to end their dispute with unions. Qantas management have taken a risky approach to end their dispute with unions. AFP/William West

Planes set to fly again - but what now for Qantas?

Qantas planes are set to return to the air today after Fairwork Australia ruled to terminate an industrial dispute that grounded the airline over the weekend. The extraordinary action on Saturday by Qantas…
Staff are due to be locked out by Qantas management at 8pm on Monday. Staff are due to be locked out by Qantas management at 8pm on Monday.

Qantas grounding: expert comment

The stakes are high for both the union movement and Qantas, as a Fairwork Australia hearing aimed at ending the industrial crisis which has grounded Qantas planes continues this evening. Qantas wants Fairwork…
Tony Abbott has tough decisions to make on workplace reform before the next election. Tony Abbott has tough decisions to make on workplace reform before the next election. AAP

A return to WorkChoices: Why is business trying to hammer it home?

In one of the most significant moments of the 2010 federal election campaign, Opposition Leader Tony Abbott declared the Coalition’s unpopular WorkChoices policy “dead, buried, cremated.” In an interview…
Cutting penalty rates and reviving individual workplace agreements will have no impact on productivity. Cutting penalty rates and reviving individual workplace agreements will have no impact on productivity. AAP

Workplace ‘reform’ won’t cure our ailing productivity

Business leaders are insisting changes be made to the Fair Work Act to boost productivity. Retailers apparently face a crisis because of penalty rates, and an MP agrees that penalty rates stymie productivity…
Expansion is behind a transitory decline in the mining sector productivity growth: but what’s the picture for other sectors? Expansion is behind a transitory decline in the mining sector productivity growth: but what’s the picture for other sectors? AAP

Australia’s productivity: what is the true picture behind our lagging growth?

Official explanations of the deterioration in Australia’s productivity growth have tended to emphasise the especially sharp declines in three sectors – agriculture, mining, and utilities (such as electricity…
Don Argus’s focus on industrial relations overlooks the real issues behind slowing productivity growth. Don Argus’s focus on industrial relations overlooks the real issues behind slowing productivity growth. AAP

Don Argus blames IR for productivity slump - but are other factors at work?

Former BHP Billiton Chairman Don Argus has blamed inflexible industrial relations laws for Australia’s lagging productivity, describing the Gillard Government’s economic reform agenda as “lazy”. Argus…
Peter Reith votes in the Liberal Federal presidency election. Peter Reith votes in the Liberal Federal presidency election. AAP

Peter Reith, Tony Abbott and the industrial relations maze

“Julia Gillard’s retrograde changes to workplace relations law are slowly burning our economy and in time the voices of embattled business will be heard across the country.” – Peter Reith, The Age, June…
A Melbourne picket line during the 1998 waterfront dispute. A Melbourne picket line during the 1998 waterfront dispute. Takver's Soapbox/Wikipedia

Peter Reith: ‘true believer’ or party pooper

After his failed attempt at winning the Liberal Party presidency, Peter Reith has become a liberated soul. As president he would be expected to avoid controversy, especially on policy issues. But now…
The Labor government has shied away from making substantial changes in industrial relations law. The Labor government has shied away from making substantial changes in industrial relations law. AAP/Patrick Hamilton

Fair work? It’s all about political spin in industrial relations

Peter Reith’s spectacular re-emergence into Australian politics has enlivened the so-called “IR” debate. His intervention has called forth a flood of commentary, from Tony Abbott (who now supports “practical…
Few in the Liberal party are keen to see a potentially damaging return to the workplace debate. Few in the Liberal party are keen to see a potentially damaging return to the workplace debate. AAP

Party turmoil takes Reith off old Liberal wounds

With political debate dominated by carbon and mining taxes, the recent stirrings by Peter Reith about industrial relations may have come as a bit of a surprise – out of left field, if you will excuse the…
Action-man Abbott bonding with the working man AAP. Action-man Abbott bonding with the working man AAP.

Reith’s wrong: exhuming WorkChoices would be a grave mistake

Peter Reith’s recent column in The Age arguing that the Liberals need to revisit and radically change their industrial relations policy explains precisely why Tony Abbott did not support him for Liberal…
Peter Reith votes in the Liberal Federal presidency election. Peter Reith votes in the Liberal Federal presidency election. AAP

Back to the future with Peter Reith

I have some very fond memories of the mid 1980s. The fluoro shirts, the feathered haircuts, dancing to Wham! at the local blue light disco. But this week I’m having a disturbing ‘80s industrial relations…
Indigenous affairs minister Jenny Macklin must ensure policy reflect cultural differences. Indigenous affairs minister Jenny Macklin must ensure policy reflect cultural differences.

Blaming individuals will get indigenous employment policy nowhere

The Gillard Government’s new discussion paper on indigenous welfare policy in the Northern Territory continues Labor’s rhetorical reliance on a loosely defined concept of the “dignity of work”. Federal…
FairWork Australia’s decision will allow young workers more flexibility. FairWork Australia’s decision will allow young workers more flexibility. AAP

The after-school job is the comeback kid

Fair Work Australia’s decision to relax the minimum shift requirement for school kids from three hours to 90 minutes has been praised by employer groups and criticised by unions, who fear low-paid teens…

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