The impact of the Workplace Relations Act 1996 (Cth.) - the views of five Australian trade unions

The Workplace Relations Act (WRA) constitutes a profound change in Australian workplace relations. As a result, the current legislative environment challenges trade unions in a myriad of ways, as does the continual decline in trade union density. However, comparatively few studies have investigated the relationship between the WRA and the decline in union density at the federal level in Australia. This paper examines the impact of the WRA on five Australian trade unions by investigating the relationship between the legislation and declining union density. The findings suggest that the WRA has not had a direct and immediate impact on trade union density, yet has impacted indirectly, on the union movement as a whole. This is demonstrated by a 'cultural shift' toward individualised workplace relations. The paper concludes that the relationship between the WRA and declining union density warrants further attention, given the emergence of an individualistic mindset at the broader societal level, and the continual challenges confronting Australian trade unions.