Complexity and simplicity in Australian enterprise agreements:a content analysis of agreements in the higher education and fast food sectors, 1993–2011

2017-05-19T03:18:46Z (GMT) by Sutherland, Carolyn Elizabeth
This study maps the evolution of enterprise agreements in Australia through the lens of complexity/simplicity. Drawing on Peter Schuck’s four features of complexity - technicality, density, differentiation and uncertainty - the thesis develops a multi-dimensional framework to categorise the complexity of enterprise agreements and to assess whether these agreements have become more, or less, complex over time. Since the early debates about the introduction of formalised enterprise bargaining in the late 1980s, politicians and other policy makers have consistently argued that the bargaining process should produce ‘simple’ agreements. In essence, the goal was to set out workplace conditions in a single document, in a form that was easy for workers to understand and straightforward for businesses to apply. To date, this goal of simplifying workplace relations conditions via enterprise bargaining has received scant scholarly attention. In particular, very little work has been done to assess, classify or measure the ways in which enterprise agreements alleviate, or contribute to, the complexity of rules that govern the workplace. To address this gap, the thesis uses content analysis techniques to assess enterprise agreements made within the federal workplace relations system between 1993 and 2011 in the higher education and fast food sectors. The aim of the empirical study is to evaluate the effectiveness of the policy of simplicity by examining the extent to which these enterprise agreements have changed over the period of enterprise bargaining across the four categories of complexity. The study also explores some of the legislative and non-legislative factors that have contributed to the shifts in complexity and simplicity in these agreements. Part I of the thesis provides the foundation for the empirical study in Part II. Chapter One is an introductory chapter that explains the nature of the problem and the research questions. Chapter Two outlines the policy goal of obtaining a simple, integrated set of workplace conditions through enterprise bargaining. Chapter Three examines the evolution of the legislative framework for agreement-making from the time that formalised bargaining was introduced in 1992 through to the changes introduced by the Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth). Chapter Four concludes Part I by outlining the methods which are used in the empirical study of enterprise agreements. Part II of the thesis sets out the findings of the empirical study. Chapter Five outlines the findings relating to technicality and density in higher education and fast food agreements. Chapter Six presents the findings relating to differentiation and uncertainty. Finally, Chapter Seven summarises and reflects on the findings of the thesis before setting out some options for further research and suggesting some possible strategies to address complexity in enterprise agreements in the future. <div><br></div><div>Awards: Vice-Chancellor’s Commendation for Doctoral Thesis Excellence in 2013.</div>