Posted: October 17th, 2013
Australian Employment Law
Australian Employment Law
The feudal concept of status is part of the law of master and servant. The laws reflect a reliance of colonial laws regarding statutory regulations of labor. This law governed Australia for some time. The feudal system maintains a hierarchy and each person has his place in society. The status of someone’s position is determined at birth, and it is not possible to change it. Masters and servants are born to their position, and they have certain roles and responsibilities, which they must fulfill. Servants are expected to do their work and serve their masters faithfully. Masters on the other hand have the responsibility of ensuring that their servants are protected (Abbott, 2006). Although the use of the terms master and servant has faded, the essence of the concept has remained in the relationship between employer and employee. The applicability of the feudal system within the work environment differs in different countries. It may not be as pronounced as it was before, especially since many countries have made it possible for people to change their social status. Someone who started out as an employee has the possibility of becoming an employer. There are different aspects of the feudal concept of status, which remain in the workplace.
The feudal system is a legitimate authority and the employer and the employee are aware of their obligations to each other. Any employment relationship requires that an employer has the power to give orders, which the employee should follow. Employers can change the employees’ duties to suit the needs of the organization, so long as they are not breaching any contract (Stewart, 2011). The employee submits to the employer at the work place. The law gives employers extensive control over the employees. The employers control the discipline of the employees. They have the power to discipline the employees for any misconduct. The law encourages the doctrine of employment at will. People have no obligation to be employed at a certain company, and they can always leave their jobs if they feel that they are not satisfied. Employers have the right to hire whomever they want. In the absence of a contract, employers can fire at will. They do not need any reason to terminate someone’s employment (Kaufman, 1997). Employers do not have to give several warnings before they decide to fire their employees, especially on issues relating to poor performance and misconduct (Stewart, 2011). Because of the master-servant relationship that exists between the employer and the employees, the workers have little power and control in their negotiations. The employees feel a need to join trade unions to increase their bargaining power, and to have more control over their welfare (Gardner & Palmer, 1997).
Lack of jobs and other opportunities have meant that people hold on to their jobs, irrespective of the challenges they are facing. Granted, every job has challenges that the employees have to deal with and overcome. However, under the feudal system, employees face greater challenges because of the level of control that their employers have over them. Because of the prevailing social order, the employers are superior to the employees, and they have a natural right to coerce them to do what they want. Some employees have to live on call any time of day, because their employers require them to do so. This may be in the contract, and if the employees signed the contract, then they have to follow it. Employers can call on their employees even when they are not supposed to be working, and the employees have to ensure that they are available if they intend to keep their jobs.
Employees are obligated to serve their employers faithfully in the course of their employment. In some cases, this extends beyond their employment. Employees cannot run a business similar in nature to their employers business. After the end of their employment in a particular organization, former employees should not do anything that undermines their employer or his business. The employees should not recruit workers from their previous place of employment, and they should not entice their former employer’s clients to the new business. Moreover, employees should not remove or memorize any valuable information from their former place of employment. Such acts undermine their former employers and they are a breach of contract (Stewart, 2011).
The state has the power to balance the rights and powers of the employers and employees by enacting legislation. However, some of the government legislations augment and increase the powers of the employers at the expense of the employees. For instance, the establishment of the Work Choices reduced employees’ rights and power by reducing the role of the trade unions. It had many regulations and boundaries, which determined how the employers and the employees interacted with each other. New employees did not have the option of deciding their preferred employment agreement, and it was not easy for them to negotiate their contract. The Employee Greenfields Agreement gave leeway to the employer to make an agreement without consulting anyone, and without bargaining and negotiating with the employees. The unions had less power to bargain and negotiate for the rights of employees under the legislation. Those who supported the law claimed that employers were in a better position to increase productivity without interference from the trade unions or industrial tribunals. It increased the ability of the employers to coerce the employees. The legislation removed the power of the Australian Industrial Relations Commission in intervening and arbitrating work disputes (Gardiner, 2009).
The members of the capitalist class, or those who have the most wealth, also have the most power, not only in their places of work or in their industry, but also regarding national issues. Their influence determines the legislations made, especially when that legislation will affect their trade. The politicians depend on them, and they are keen to listen to their suggestions concerning different laws. They are the masters, and they continue giving orders and having people submit to them. They have become more powerful in that other than their immediate employees, other people listen to them and heed their instructions. Class divisions in the society have led to the exploitation of one class by the other. In a capitalist economy such as Australia, the workers produce more value than they are paid for by the capitalist (Mathews, 2007).
Abbott, K. (2006). A review of employment relations theories and their application. Problems and Perspectives in Management, 1, 187-200
DSP (2006). Development of the Australian capitalist nation-state. Democratic Socialist Perspective. Retrieved from http://www.dsp.org.au/node/41
Gardner & Palmer, G. (1997). The Employment Relationship. Australia: Macmillan Education AU
Gardiner, M. (2009). His master’s voice? Work choices as a return to master and servant concepts. Sydney Law Review, 31 (53), 53-81
Kaufman, E. B. (1997). Government regulation of the employment relationship. Cornell University Press
Mathews, G. (2007). Class in Australia today. Democratic Socialist Perspective. Retrieved from http://www.dsp.org.au/node/167
McMichael, P. (2004). Settlers and the agrarian question: Capitalism in Colonial Australia. Cambridge, MA: Cambridge University Press
Scott, B. (2011). Capitalism: Its origins and evolution as a system of governance. New York, NY: Springer
Stewart, A. (2011). Stewart’s guide to employment law. Annandale, Australia: Federation Press
Trainer, T. (2010). Marxist theory: A brief introduction. Retrieved from http://socialsciences.arts.unsw.edu.au/tsw/Marx.html
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