Compulsory arbitration, Australian constitution, sickness benefits, Federal power, cost of living
Under the Australian constitution, government regulates relations between employers and employees. Federal power is confined to disputes extending beyond the limits of any one state, and it is exercised through the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and through arbitration and conciliation commissioners. Compulsory arbitration exists at both the federal and state level. Arbitration and conciliation courts or boards have the power to make awards binding on employer and employee. Trade unions had nearly 2 million members, representing 26 percent of all employees, in the late 1990s. Although their membership has declined in recent years, the unions are strongly organized at local, state, and federal levels and continue to be an economic and political power.
Workers receive unemployment and sickness benefits, compensation for job-incurred injuries, basic wages and marginal awards, and general social and health benefits. A basic, or minimum, wage was established by law in 1907. Between 1921 and 1953 the basic wage was automatically adjusted to quarterly rises and falls in the cost of living. The commonwealth terminated this automatic adjustment in September 1953, but several states later reintroduced the procedure. In 2000 the labor force in Australia was 9.8 million. The unemployment rate was 6.4 percent.
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