Work and how it is regulated is in the public spotlight and bound to be a feature of debate in the upcoming election. In addition to ongoing issues in many industries we’ve recently heard horrendous stories of exploitation of workers in the agricultural sector, convenience stores and fast food outlets. The government is considering the recommendations from the Productivity Commission report and Trade Union Royal Commission. Now is an important time to consider how to strengthen our workplace relations system.In Employment Rights Now, the latest publication from the Australian Institute of Employment Rights, some of Australia’s most expert academics, unionists, lawyers and other practitioners evaluate the current status of Australia’s industrial relations system.

Instead of being situated in the neo-liberal framework of economic efficiency, Employment Rights Now applies the rights-based principles set out in the Australian Charter of Employment Rights. The Charter is based on international labour standards, the Australian concept of a “fair go” at work, and relevant common law principles.

Professor Joellen Riley, Dean of Law at Sydney University, says of the book:

“Almost 10 years after the launch of the original Australian Charter of Employment Rights, and six years after the enactment of the Fair Work Act, we still face challenges in meeting our aspirations of a ‘fair go all round’ in Australian workplaces.  This book of reflections on how far we have come in respecting each of the 10 Charter rights is an illuminating study – and most worthy of the attention of Australian policy makers.”

Employment Rights Now contains a chapter on each of the ten Charter principles including freedom from discrimination and harassment, freedom of association, protection from unfair dismissal, fairness and balance in industrial bargaining and effective dispute resolution. There is also exploration of the not-uncontroversial position that sits at the core of the Charter that labour rights are human rights.

Jo Howe explores how easily workers can be stripped of their dignity using examples of the appalling way many migrant workers, particularly temporary migrant workers, are exploited in Australia. In the chapter on fair minimum standards, David Peetz and Georgina Murray take us through three legislative “standards” – maximum hours, right to request, individual flexibility arrangements – that undermine the notion of minimum standards because of loopholes, get-out clauses and weasel words.

Workplace democracy is one of the Charter principles and a concept that remains under-developed in Australian workplace relations theory and practice. As our economy and the nature of work is rapidly changing around us, there exists exciting opportunities for new forms of enterprises that provide for genuine workplace democracy. Dan Musil from the Earthworker Cooperative makes a compelling case for workers cooperatives as key means of meeting the challenges of providing decent work, addressing global warming and creating an economy that works for people.

To read more, email us at for your own copy of Employment Rights Now.