Endangered species? The demise of the Enterprise Bargaining Agreements

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This paper reports on the conceptualisation for a thesis that will explore the factors that have influenced the decline of Enterprise Bargaining within the Australian Retail Industry. Bray et al. (2019) define Enterprise Bargaining Agreements as a process and a structure with an agreement being the outcome, often facilitated by the state, where employers and unions decide the terms and conditions of employment of workers. Price et al. (2014) argue that there has been comparatively little attention focused on cooperation, collaboration, and compromise between the stakeholders within the industrial relations arena. This research will focus the bargaining relations to identify any cooperation, collaboration, compromise, as well as conflict in the retail sector. Although Pennington (2018) has found a significant decline in Enterprise Bargaining Agreements within the private sector, most notably within the Australian Retail Industry from 2013-2017, there is little evidence to suggest what factors have influenced the decline in the retail sector. While the decline in bargaining is particularly evident in the private sector as a whole, there is limited research that focuses specifically on the Australian Retail sector (Pennington, 2018) Two paradigmatic approaches will be used within the proposed thesis, including 'Critical Hermeneutics' and 'Critical Theory'. Critical theory will underpin the research, providing the philosophical views regarding the nature of reality (Guba, 1994) and how knowledge about reality is understood and accepted (Burrell, 2017). Drawing on critical hermeneutics, the thesis will explore the way particular texts condition the understandings of organisational and extra organisational actors, and how this conditioning affects their behaviour (Phillips & Brown, 1993). Furthermore, regulation theory of employment will be utilised to provide a framework for understanding the factors that shape the bargaining processes within the sector. Employment regulation can be understood as the network of rules, social norms and practices that govern the employment contract and labour activity (Edwards et al., 1994). This thesis will examine how such different elements of regulation can impact the bargaining process within the retail sector.


ConferenceAssociation of Industrial Relations Academics in Australia and New Zealand (AIRAANZ) Conference 2021
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