Previous Next
Page 4
Previous/Next Page
Parties to the Award Australian Trade Union Archives Home Page
Table of Contents


Parties to the Award

Federal industrial relations legislation

Conciliation and Arbitration Act 1904

Industrial Relations Act 1988

Registered organisations
Associations eligible to register
Interstate disputes
Prior existence of an association
Definition of industry
Size requirements
Rights of registered organisations
Obligations of registered organisations
Dual registration
Deregistered organisations
Employer associations

Amalgamation trends

Research using archives



Contact us
Registered organisations [8]

Both the relevant Acts named as an objective the organisation of representative bodies of employers and employees, their registration under the Act, and democratic control of these registered bodies by their members.[9]

Associations eligible to register

Associations of employers and associations of employees, capable of being involved in interstate industrial disputes, may apply for registration as an 'organisation'. For a period under the Conciliation and Arbitration Act, single employers were also able to apply for registration.

Interstate disputes

Associations of employers and employees need not themselves be interstate bodies to obtain federal registration. Federally registered unions and employer associations such as the Victorian State Building Trades Union and the Retail Traders' Association of New South Wales, although intrastate in function, may still be involved in interstate disputes affecting their respective industries.[10]

Prior existence of an association

The association must pre-date any application for registration. The unions which applied for registration under the Conciliation and Arbitration Act were often federations of state or district-based unions with origins in the Australian colonies. Some, like the Federated Seamen's Union of Australasia, had operated as federations for varying periods prior to registration.[11] Others, like the Australian Journalists' Association, federated for the specific purpose of registering under the Act.[12] A unique case is that of the Federated Tobacco Workers' Union of Australia. The Victorian tobacco workers' union formed a federation in 1904 with its South Australian counterpart, with the aim of registering under the Conciliation and Arbitration Act. Federal registration was then deferred by the Union until 1979, with direct bargaining and negotiated agreements going on in the meantime.[13]

Definition of industry

Contention over which associations were eligible to apply for registration existed for almost the whole duration of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act. Under the Act's definition of 'industry', craft unions were initially interpreted to be excluded from applying for registration. The definition was amended in 1911 to allow such registrations to take place.[14] Combined craft and industry unions and those covering diverse industries were also free to seek registration. Yet, often as a result of High Court judgements, criteria for what constituted an 'industry' continued to exclude certain associations of workers (eg. fire fighters and teachers) from obtaining registration. This situation changed in 1983 with the High Court's judgement in the Social Welfare Union Case. The decision held that earlier interpretations of what defined an 'industry' were inexplicable. The Court concluded that an 'industrial dispute' was not a technical or legal term but should be given its popular meaning.[15]

Size requirements

The minimum size requirement for registered employer associations and trade unions, in terms of workers employed or members, stood at 100 for the duration of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act 1904. The Industrial Relations Act 1988 raised the minimum first to 1000, then to 10,000[16] and finally returned it to 100 in 1994. These changes served as a major catalyst for trade union amalgamations from the late 1980s up to 1994. Changes to the size requirement will be explained in more detail later.

Previous Page Australian Trade Union Archives Home Page Next Page

© 1994 Print Edition pages 2 - 3, 2002 Online Edition
Published by The University of Melbourne Archives, using the Web Academic Resource Publisher