Should Australia Copy U.S. Employee Relations Practices?



As Australia debates the possibility of major changes in its labor laws, I am told that there are those who argue it should copy elements of the American system. How weird! While I love my country I never thought of it as a model of good labor relations. But based on the assumption that American experience has some relevance, this paper consists of three parts. The first describes recent developments in American employee relations broadly conceived (not just union-management relations). After all, if you want to copy U.S. practices you should know what they are. Next I comment briefly on one major but perhaps insufficiently recognized difference between our countries’ labor relations: the U.S. is more legalistic. The final section deals specifically at some proposed changes in Australian labor law, supposedly suggested by American practice, though this practice may be misunderstood.