Partners in Enforcement? The New Balance between Government and Trade Union Enforcement of Employment Standards in Australia
Melbourne Law School
University of Melbourne Law School
December 5, 2010
Australian Journal of Labour Law, Vol. 23, No. 3, 2009
U of Melbourne Legal Studies Research Paper No. 509
Historically, Australian trade unions played a significant role in the monitoring and enforcement of minimum employment standards, an important aspect of unions’ regulatory function under the conciliation and arbitration system. In contrast, federal government enforcement was historically under-resourced, a situation that was sometimes justified on the ground that unions and the government inspectorate were ‘partners in enforcement’. Under the Howard Coalition Government, legal support for trade unions’ enforcement functions was significantly undermined, while Work Choices heralded an unprecedented emphasis on federal government enforcement. The Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth) maintains this emphasis on government enforcement, to be undertaken by the Fair Work Ombudsman, and restores some of the protections for trade unions lost during the Howard years. However, the new emphasis on good faith enterprise bargaining and the continuation of restrictions on right of entry suggest that unions may become the junior partner in the new enforcement regime, making a more tripartite and collaborative approach to enforcement less viable.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 38
Keywords: enforcement, trade unions, Fair Work Act
JEL Classification: K00, K31Accepted Paper Series
Date posted: December 6, 2010
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