Changes at work


Changes at work

Collectively negotiated agreements are more likely to appear in public sector workplaces than in the private sector.


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Collectively negotiated agreements are more likely to appear in public sector workplaces than in the private sector. Also, workplaces with union members and delegates are more likely to have a collective agreement (61%) in place than workplaces without union members (27%). This apparent preference for collective agreements is supported by other findings from AWIRS 95.

The results of the 1995 Australian Workplace Industrial Relations Survey (AWIRS 95) have been released in the form of a 600 page book titled Changes at Work.

AWIRS 95 is a large scale workplace survey conducted by the Commonwealth Department of Industrial Relations over the period August 1995 to January 1996. It is a comprehensive survey of workplaces with 20 or more employees across all industries except agriculture, forestry and fishing, and defence. Separate surveys were conducted of employees and small businesses.

The survey provides comparisons, where possible, with the AWIRS 90 survey so that some indication of trends may be gauged.

In support of the data collected regarding collectively negotiated agreements in workplaces AWIRS 95 also surveyed the payment systems utilised by workplaces. The survey found that 31% of workplaces were covered by collective agreements and only 25% were covered by State awards and 14% by federal awards.

The AWIRS 95 survey showed an increase in the number of female employees employed in organisations with more than 20 employees. The figure increased from 41% in 1990 to 45% in 1995. By industry, the largest increase in female employees occurred in the personal and other services sector (18% in 1990 up to 34% in 1995) and in education which increased from 53% to 61%. The survey also showed that 63% of casual employees were women.

The increase in female employees in the workforce has implications for workplaces providing work and family initiatives. The survey shows however, that workplaces were not necessarily embracing a commitment to work and family policies, as 78% of workplaces used annual leave entitlements for employees to look after family or household members, 72% allowed unpaid leave and only 29% provided either family or carer’s leave.

The survey considers the role of unions in the workplace, not only through figures relating to density but also through gauging employees’ attitudes. The survey shows a drop in union density with only 51% of the workplaces surveyed being unionised, compared to 64% in the 1990 survey. Perhaps even more interesting though is that of those unionised workplaces, only 59% of employees are members, whereas in 1990, 71% were members.

In the survey conducted for small business, 1075 workplaces with between 5 and 19 employees were surveyed. Amongst other findings, the survey found that the majority (76%) of small businesses at the time felt that the award system had worked well in the past.

The survey also showed that small businesses were less likely to dismiss employees than larger employers. Only 15% of small businesses had dismissed employees in the previous year compared to 40% of larger workplaces. However, the survey highlighted that, of those small businesses that dismissed employees, 19% had difficulties with the process which sometimes resulted in unfair dismissal procedures.

These are just a sample of figures and workplace issues covered by the AWIRS 95 survey.


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