IR the biggest issue to get right in 2012

by 19 Dec 2011

Industrial relations experts have warned that IR is set to remain firmly on the agenda throughout 2012 and beyond, and that it’s time to look back on the lessons to be learnt from past disputes.

Graham Bradley, chairman of HSBC, Anglo American Australia and the departing head of the Business Council of Australia, recently told ABC that industrial relations was the single biggest issue to get right in 2012, for a plethora of reasons, including proving business productivity, competitiveness, and upholding reputation.

Bradley said the Business Council see IR as a looming problem for the country, because it directly reflects on Australia’s reputation as a reliable place to do business and as a supplier.

Speaking to HC, Allan Drake-Brockman, partner at DLA Piper, said he sees the “brutal process” of strikes and lockouts continuing to increase in the upcoming year.

When asked about HR’s role in mitigating the IR disputes, Drake-Brockman said HR can have a tangible effect, and the most important role is to maintain the employer-employee relationship by keeping the lines of communication flowing.

“It’s simple stuff really – keep the promises and maintain a transparent communication,” he said.

In terms of outsourcing the negotiating process to IR lawyers and professionals, Drake-Brockman said it really depends on the size of the organisation- but the main thing is to have clear objectives, and a consistent approach.

“If the employer has excellent policies and procedures in place, follow a fair and transparent procedure, and find it cannot be resolved at a workplace level, that’s the point they may need to ask for specialist assistance,” Drake-Brockman said.

Bradley pointed to the Qantas dispute as evidence that the current system is not conducive to settling industrial issues.

“We've got to get this fixed, it's really important,” he added.


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