New Work choices

This is the intention of this paper to critically evaluate the pros and cons of the new work choices laws in relation to AWA’s, Awards, Unfair dismissals, Occupational Health and Safety, Affirmative Action, Anti discrimination and Equal Employment Opportunity, also having analyzed the key advantages and disadvantages of the respective changes in regards to the above enactments, this paper further analyses how the HR manager at Qantas Pvt Ltd, has seeked to reconcile and has been successful in reconciling the competing demands being faced, between the employer, employee and the state and federal governments.

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Introduction It is the intention of this essay to critically evaluate and discuss the needs of the employers and the 37000 odd employees of the Qantas group which is widely regarded as the world’s leading long distance airline and one of the strongest brands in Australia, and also the needs of the State and Federal governments.

In addition this essay will also critically evaluate the competing demands being confronted by the human resource manager and discuss how these issues need to be reconciled in the areas of Industrial relations legislations such as Work choice, Australian workplace agreements, Enterprise bargaining agreements, Unfair dismissal legislation, Anti Discrimination legislation and Equal Employment Opportunities and Affirmative Action legislation as well as Occupational Health and Safety legislations.

This paragraph will critically evaluate and discuss how Kevin Brown (Executive General Manager: Human Resources) for the Qantas group seeks to reconcile how the Work Choices Act 2005 (Cth) AWA 1996 (Cth) EBA 1991 (Cth) legislations can impact upon day to day operations, cost and productivity targets and also the objectives of the company in general. At Qantas the H. R manager has proposed a drastic change of adopting a dual approach (hard and soft HRM) by signaling that the management would take advantage of new flexibilities under federal laws after having been a union-held outfit for many years.

This move suggests that it is prepared to play hardball with unions to get the productivity cuts that the company plans. Qantas pilots in a new freight venture have been put on AWA’s for a period of 3 years, The management has made it clear that the company needs a range of industrial instruments though it will be still very much having the enterprise bargaining agreements with a lot of the employees and where there is the need for greater flexibility and where it’s better utilised it will be using AWAs.

Qantas will now have the power to deregulated employment contracts and create individual contracts for workers which will allow Qantas to provide different conditions and wages to different pilots, Awards will be stripped down to 16 basic conditions (from the previous amount of 20) with rules on superannuation, termination notice, long service leave and jury service removed or negotiated.

Brown (2006) argues that the key advantages of AWA’s for pilots at Qantas is that it includes six weeks of annual leave out of which two weeks can be cashed out, eight rostered days off, sick and carers leave of 10 days, 1 week’s paid paternity leave (including adoption) unpaid parental leave for 52 weeks, Examination and Training Assistance Leave, overseas living expense benefits and certain awards and bonuses could also be negotiated and finally promises of flexible work practices and conditions, he further claims that the AWA’s were designed to encourage more direct bargaining between employees and employers.

Brown (2006) also assured the employees that any AWAs Qantas puts in will be fair and reasonable and will reflect the need for Qantas to achieve outcomes that will enable profitable growth. Dixon also suggested that the AWA’s will be very, very good for the employees as well as the company, but the company will need the flexibility and the productivity that it can probably get out of them

Whereas Burrow (2006) (President ACTU) argues that the key disadvantages of the new AWA’s work choice 2005 legislation is that it is an attempt to cut pay and penalty rates for shift and weekend work, Reduced awards allowable from 20 to 16, redundancy pay, rostered days off, paid maternity leave and also introduction of longer working hours potentially which can result in the abolition of overtime weekend and public holiday penalty rates, inadequate salaries, inferior conditions and also a decrease in work allowances, in addition Burrow claims that employees that did not accept change could find themselves sidelined and most of the jobs would be replaced by off shore staff thereby the company would be unable to retain staff because of such conditions which could be outlined in the AWA.

He further suggests that the Awa’s offered will be bottom of the barrel. Stephen Smith 2006(Labor party) claims that most workers are losing conditions and are under pressure. Green (2006) argues that the key disadvantages of the new work choice 2005(Cth) legislation is that employers could rush to reduce their labor and operating costs by cutting wages and conditions, job security and also eliminate any power that their employees may have to say no. he further claims that it is confrontational, likely to increase employee disputation and result in an increase in absenteeism, staff turnover and a decline in staff morale in companies where employers act in an instrumentalist H. R. M manner.

The Australian Bureau of statistics (2006) states that wage increases under AWA’s has been significantly lower than increases obtained under unionized bargaining. It also states that AWA terms and conditions were generally less generous than union agreements. Geoff Dixon (2006) (C. E. O) proposes that Qantas is trying to get a competitive cost structure in an industry that’s pretty distorted he also claims AWA’s would benefit staff as well as the company. This can be seen from an example on the day when news that Qantas was prepared to embrace Australian Workplace Agreements saw the carrier’s shares defy the recent slump in airline stocks and jump 8c which is a positive outcome.

Dixon also claims that Qantas will continue with existing efficiency programs, but unfortunately (As there is little airlines can do to reduce the cost of major items of expenditure, such as fuel or new aircraft), much of the savings (approx $750 million) over the next two years must come from labor costs ( significant negotiations in wages, awards, job lay offs and job cuts as well. ) since labor accounts for almost one-third of the total operational costs (Dixon, 2006) which totaled $3. 34 billion in 2005-06. He also claims that Qantas would not be satisfied with incremental change, but would make efforts to make fundamental changes on a much greater scale than in the past. He further suggests that it’s not all about people leaving the business but it’s about changing the way we operate. Dixon further denies that AWAs would become the airline’s major industrial tool by suggesting that the AWA’s were just one of a range of instruments available.

Dixon believes Qantas would without a doubt, in the foreseeable future mainly use enterprise agreements, and it would be wrong to suggest it would not continue to deal constructively with unions. However Dixon suggests that he would not rule out the use of AWA’s in any area of the company The H. R managers’ vital role at Qantas is to support company objectives by focusing on creating a balance and unity of interests between the employer and employee, with the primary goal being achievement of organizational competitiveness by complying with the state and federal legislations. He further plays an important informational role through team briefings to encourage employee participation in negotiations, create a culture of change amongst employees who accept the new system of AWA’s.

Monitoring of Employment relations will be more important to determine if turnover, absenteeism increases or quality falls under new agreements due to employee dissatisfaction. Qantas Human resources team is known for setting the benchmark for corporate Australia. It is termed ’employer of choice’ because the management takes the time to listen and implement flexible work and other conditions when requested by employees and where operationally feasible thereby helping achieve a balance for employees between competing demands of work and family which has led to the retention of valuable staff, clearly benefiting both the individuals and the company.