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Industrial action in Western Australia's public sector essential services

Skalko, Brodie-Ann (2022) Industrial action in Western Australia's public sector essential services. Masters by Research thesis, Murdoch University.

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Workers in essential services professions protect the safety, health or welfare of a community. Any disruption to the operation of essential services can mean that communities are unable to function effectively. For this reason, additional complications arise when people working in essential fields look to take industrial action. This thesis reflects on the often-competing interests of protecting essential service workers’ liberty to take industrial action (or right to strike) while upholding the life, safety, health or welfare of the community. The purpose of this thesis is to consider whether essential service workers in Western Australia’s Public Sector have sufficient freedom to access their right to strike; or if legislation is overly restrictive in this regard. Secondary purposes to this thesis include consideration of whether Australia’s Federal industrial relations system is more facilitative than Western Australia’s industrial relations system for essential service workers taking industrial action, and, whether some essential service professions should have greater limitations than others when taking industrial action. These issues will be addressed in light of the industrial situation for professions such as policing, teaching, firefighting and nursing. A macro assessment of the historical and present approaches to industrial action taken by essential service professions in Western Australia and Australia will be presented. The macro assessment suggests that industrial actions by core essential services is rarely taken, and, when done, it is reactive and the outcome of sustained frustrations over pay and working conditions. A comparative analysis of Australia’s compliance with international labour obligations on this issue highlights several shortcomings in Western Australia’s labour laws. These shortcomings mean that there is a need for Western Australia to enhance its proactive dispute resolution mechanisms to facilitate better access to the right to strike, and to bring domestic laws into better compliance with international obligations.

Item Type: Thesis (Masters by Research)
Murdoch Affiliation(s): Law and Criminology
Supervisor(s): van der Waarden, Natalie and Peachey, Anne
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