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Trade Unions Power in Australian Employment Relations


Introduction: Trade Unions.

Theories of Historic Trade Unionism..

Employment Relations Theory.

Power of trade unions in the effect of employee relations theory.

Powers of Trade Unions in the Australian Labor Market

Gender discrimination and inequality in the labor market practices.

Racial Discrimination and trade unionism..

Impacts of trade unionism referred to employment relations theory.

The consequent scenario of powered trade unions.

Uneven Growth.

Limited stress on the welfare.

Prospective scenes of Trade unions in power

Greater bargaining power.

Sense of security and betterment



Introduction: Trade Unions

Trade unions, as elaborated by McBride (2020) is often regarded as labor unions, are the organizations or formulated by the employees or worker section of an organization, industry, or class whether temporary or permanent, primarily set up for the purpose regulating the relations or imposition of restrictive situations of employment for structured conduct of trade. Trade unions can be established diversely on the basis of a firm, craft, staff, industrial, etc. where these organizations set up sees to protect the economical, political, and social perspectives of its members.

The Australian scenario of trade unionism has been a movement of historic institution and formation that craved out constantly with the rise of the realization in concern to the need for employee management, development, and regulation in the organizational context. The initiation of Australian trade unionism has been found during the late 1820s by the free i.e. non-convict labor sectorial workers followed by which the boost in trade unionism arrived in the late 1830s (Mirza 2020).

The Australian trade unions at the beginning stage usually represented the craft-based unionism that was majorly aimed at improvisation of issues related to pay, working situations, inequality and discriminated behaviors, etc. Apart from this, few trade unions had been set up with the motive of serving the workers of similar craft, class, or industry with assistance during illness, death, and alike as assistance to people of a similar arena.

Theories of Historic Trade Unionism

The traditions and recent nurtures in the field of trade unionism since advent have seen radical innovations and modifications in the arena. Different leaders and their distinct ideologies and insightful thinking have led to the proposition of varied trade unionism theories. From the Marxian approach as demonstrated by Cottrell (2019) of trade unionism based on the Adam Smith’s theory of labor welfare, its foundation of trade unionism bases on the class struggle between labors and capitalists in the socialistic labor market, Webb’s theory propounds the trade unionism to be an extension of industrial democracy from political orbit to industrial orbit.

Webb’s theory agrees with that of Marx that trade unionism is a class struggle where the modern capitalist state acts as a transition that leads towards democratic socialism and hence here collective bargaining has been considered a fruitful measure of the same (Gumbrell-McCormick and Hyman 2019).

Further expanded by Goodway (2016), Cole’s theory of industrial unionism, which lies in between the approaches made by Webb and Marx, defines unionism as a class struggle where ultimate is the control of the industry by labor and not a revolution as elaborated by Marx.

Followed by Common’s environment theory as a pragmatic approach that agrees that collective bargaining acts as an instrument of class struggle but ultimately there exists a partnership between laborers and employers (Leonardi 2017).

Later on, the unionism has been diversified into five sorts of typologies with the advent of revolutions in the organizational context. Propounded by Hoxie, trade unionism differs into five ways namely business, uplift, revolutionary, predatory, and dependent unionism where each sort id dependent on the types of approach and ideologies followed (Sinha, Sinha, and Shekhar 2017).

Significance of Trade unions in Australian employment relations

According to Rawling and Schofield-Georgeson (2018), several trade unions based on distinct levels of formation in the Australian labor and employment market has been aroused as a demand or urge for obstinance of both economic and non-economic facilities and advantages from the workplace. Several federations set up such as the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) as a supportive organization that lays such trade unions to get their valid demands to be fulfilled and also acts as an outline for organizational conduct in view of employee management has been evident to provide the trade unions a scope of entertainment of all kinds of interests of white-collar blue-collar employees within the service arena.

The establishment of the Australian Employment Relations theory has also been assistance for the management of trade unionism in the boundaries of Australia. The theory of employment relationships takes into force the human resource management perspectives in the organizational field towards creation of the robust and flexible industrial relations, labor laws, labor economics, and sociology factors in the sustainability of the workplace. However, it cannot be neglected that the dynamic changes and renovations in labor and employee management by the effect of trade unions have brought a tremendous effect on the power of the labor population in Australia (Sinha, Sinha, and Shekhar 2017). It must not be avoided that the incremented power of certain actions and policies regulating the trade union practices have accelerated the pace of unwanted actions and practices in the name of trade unionism.

Employment Relations Theory

The empirical roots of employee relations lie in the scope of identification and assessment of health and nurtured employee relationships in the organizational context. The employee relations theory involves three major categories or principles namely unilateralism, pluralism, and Marxism.

The unilateral theory of employment relations generally identifies the one-sided action or insights in the trade unionism practices and chalks out the co-dependency in the organizational context between the employers and employees concerned at identification, analysis, and resolution of issues and gaps by means of friendly and collaborative measures. The unilateralism as the relationship framework has been in adoption to various policies and theories of organizational employability such as scientific management theory, human resource management, etc. (Wilkinson et al. 2018).

Likewise, the pluralistic principle of employee relations theory marks for the processes and functions of trade unionism focused on resolution and attainment of objective interests by means of collective bargaining in order to strengthen and legitimize the trade union practices. The followers of the pluralistic theory of employee relations usually follow the reformist acts of interactive, communicative, and persuasive processes rather than that of guerrilla unions that focus on control and demands. Systems theory, strategic choice theory, and alike are considered to be framed on the facets of pluralism in the organizational relationship management.

Further continued by Wilkinson et al (2018), the Marxist theory or philosophy represents the class struggle which has further been viewed as the trade unionism as the prime instrument of social conflicts between proletarian workers and capitalists. The Marxian perspectives have been followed under the feminist theories, labor process theory, and so on.

Power of Trade Unions in The Effect of Employee Relations Theory

The continuous rise and expansion of trade union identities and their acceptance in the labor market have presently been positioned as the rising threat to the organizations and service industries. Trade unions usually differ in their typology depending upon the aims and objectives assumed to be served under such.

Much has been stated by Cushion (2016) about reformist unions that seek for the preservation of capitalistic labor society neither seeks comprehensive changes nor does destroy the existing structure but simply aim to modify the requirements through peaceful means. On the other hand, guerrilla unions reflect the type of unions that do not vision in the cooperative relationships but exploitation, non-cooperative, and violent measures for the achievement of proposed demands. It has been soundly observed that the reformist type of unions is less prone towards domination of the organizational structure but the guerrilla unions are much more. The coordination of certain acts and regulatory frameworks that drives the trade unions towards approval of their labor demands have often been seen to be played unintended by the certain union for mean measures and thus has provided for the platform of controverting and non-cooperative measures in the name of unionism. In addition to employment relations theory and other acts, the involvement and rise of politics in trade unionism have also cradled a big pool of powers to trade unions in Australia.

Certain issues at the national as well as international level have occurred resulting from the globalized workforce activities and cross-culture inheritances, leading the urge towards flexible development platforms for the labor population in the boundaries. To elaborate, based on the employee relations theory and theories of trade unionism, the below processes enable the demonstration of the power of trade unions in the Australian labor market.

Powers of Trade Unions in the Australian Labor Market

The labor market concentration in the view of collective unionism originated the concept of trade unions, especially in the Australian labor market. The risen power of trade unions has been a result of the fulfillment of the following demands that gave rise to tremendous positioning of unions, as explained by the following illustrations.

Gender discrimination and inequality in the labor market practices

The trade unions in power in the Australian borders have been constantly stepping up in the fight to close the gender gap and inequality factors in order to create a balanced demand in the labor market. Gender-based pay, unequaled labor forces, and denomination of feminist labor in the organizational work are few concerns that raised a big war against the discriminatory actions in the Australian labor market (McBride 2020). The female population of the labor market in turn to the formation of women-oriented trade unions for the sake of equal and democratic opportunistic development of labor economics in feminist support has given birth to unions like the Victorian Lady Teachers’ Association, Council of Action for Equal Pay, etc. have been in the vital response of gender discrimination in the collective and unionistic way in alignment with the Workplace Gender Equality Act 2012.

Racial Discrimination and trade unionism

As described by Baucher (2016), discrimination on the pillars of race, religion, color, caste, and alike has been established as an elemental reason for the rise of bargaining and struggle for labor market people in the workplace scope. Racial discrimination has been acted as a leading issue or challenge in the facets of Australian workforce practices where a person is treated favorable or less favorable, discriminated on the basis of opportunistic inquiries, and other similar conditions of employment on the judgment of their race, origin, color, etc. that has eventually arrived as a predominant reason for the rise of trade unions in support of racial acceptances in the Australian labor market. The Racial Discrimination Act 1975 aligns with the corporation of such trade unions in order to protect people and labor from such natural discriminations in range of employment, serviceability, education, training, etc. in the labor-related orbits (Soutphommasane 2016).

Impacts of Trade Unionism Referred to Employment Relations Theory

Trade unions in support of the overestimation and connection of the Australian legislative guidelines are observed to be rising on the way of controversies and disorganization in the competent labor environment. The increased power of trade unions in the Australian context aligned with the employee relations theory capture both the negatives and positive from the process.

The Consequent Scenario of Powered Trade Unions

The dominant extension of trade union powers has laid certain issues related to labor market and development that includes a multiplicity of unions based on distinct objectives hence the absence of monopolistic unions, lack of membership and interests in the welfare or efforted actions, limited stress on welfare, and many more alike.

Uneven Growth

The ease and expanded trade union approaches in the Australian labor market have risen the pace for multiplicity of unions categorized on the basis of distinct values like class, staff, craft, industrial, etc. in inclination with the employee relations act and other regulatory frameworks of the nation (Gamage 2018). The effective and higher concentration on large scale industries, especially the manual labor sectors, leads to the uneven growth of trade union practices industry-wise. For instance, a manual working industry might find higher growth and power of trade unions in comparison to the IT sector.

Limited stress on the welfare

The efficacy of trade unions in integration to the Australian legislative frameworks and support of the related theories finds that the prone inclusion of Marxist principles in the resolution of acts has raised the bar for limited focus on labor welfare in ways of skills enhancement, knowledge, competence, etc. due to the involvement of forceful effects of trade unionism on changing labor conditions as marked by Oakley and Williams (2018).

Prospective Scenes of Trade Unions in Power

Not just the consequent factors, but the effectively powered trade unionism perspectives in the Australian labor market serves certain positive outcomes that had a major concern in the traditional practices of personnel management.

Greater bargaining power

According to he concentrated effect of trade unionism and legislations has served as a platform for effective performance and an increase in the flexibility for a higher and collective process of the bargain on concerned issues and technicalities at the industrial or labor market level. The boosted eccentricity has aided the ease in the resolution of labor issues and deficiencies towards development.

Sense of security and betterment

Powered trade unionism practices under influence of relations theory have raised the capability for laborers of the union to enjoy the sense of security and belongingness along with the reduction of discriminatory stages with the effect of concentrated unionism perspectives (Grant 2017). The condensed laborers in a union develop higher sensitivity towards each labor issue in the way of employment and hence secure their positions and belongingness in the industry by use of unionistic images. 

Conclusion on The Employment Relations Theory

As supported by the employee relations theory, the fundamentalist trade union development has upsurge in the global labor market for the sake of achievement of personal and self-actualization goals from the industrial perspectives or domain. Certain theories propounded with the passage of decades still have their significance in corners of the industrial and labor perspectives aided by the legislative regulations and acts. This has become a powerful tool for the trade unions in the recent as well as future eras of industrialism towards the dominance of laborers and the labor market on industrial administration. The future of trade unionism can thus be seen as a paramount yet vitiated action of the industrial processes and hence utilization or foundation of a competent based labor union is necessitated.

References for The Employment Relations Theory

Boucher, A. 2016. Gender, migration, and the global race for talent. Manchester University Press. England.

Cottrell, A., 2019. Social classes in Marxist theory, vol. 17. Routledge.

Cushion, S., 2016. A Hidden History of the Cuban Revolution: How the Working Class Shaped the Guerillas’ Victory. NYU Press.

Gamage, P.N. 2018. The multiplicity of trade unions: Issues and challenges in the Sri Lankan perspective. SAARJ Journal on Banking & Insurance Research, 7(5), pp. 24-35. http://dx.doi.org/10.5958/2319-1422.2018.00016.4

Goodway, D. 2016. GDH Cole: a socialist and pluralist. In Alternatives to State-Socialism in Britain, pp. 245-270. Palgrave Macmillan, Cham. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-34162-0_9

Grant, W. 2017. Major’s objectives. John Major: An Unsuccessful Prime Minister? Reappraising John Major. Biteback Publishing. England.

Gumbrell-McCormick, R., and Hyman, R. 2019. Democracy in trade unions, democracy through trade unions?. Economic and Industrial Democracy, 40(1), pp.91-110. https://doi.org/10.1177%2F0143831X18780327

Leonardi, S. 2017. Trade unions and collective bargaining in Italy during the crisis. Rough waters European trade unions in a time of crisis, p.83.

McBride, A. 2020. Gender democracy in trade unions. Routledge.

Mirza, M.S. 2020. Are trade unions still relevant in the digital age? HR Future, pp. 26-29.

Oakley, A. and Williams, S. eds., 2018. The Politics of the Welfare State, vol.25. Routledge.

Rawling, M., and Schofield-Georgeson, E., 2018. Industrial legislation in Australia in 2017. Journal of Industrial Relations, 60(3), pp. 378-396. https://doi.org/10.1177%2F0022185618760088

Sinha, P.R.N., Sinha, I.B., and Shekhar, S.P. 2017. Industrial Relations, Trade Unions, and Labour Legislation. Pearson Education India.

Soutphommasane, T. 2016. Forty years of the racial discrimination act: its impact on Australian legal and political culture. Journal of Australian Studies, 29, pp.41-49. https://doi.org/10.20764/asaj.29.0_41

Wilkinson, A., Dundon, T., Donaghey, J. and Colvin, A.J. 2018. Employment relations. The Routledge Companion to Employment Relations. Routledge. New York.

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