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The Howard Government was elected in 1996 by the Australian public Since then the government has introduced many reforms to improve the economy and living standards of the Australian people Over one hundred years ago the Australian Workers Union AWU stood at the forefront of the most significant industrial battle in the Australian workplace It was a fight over freedom of contract The pastoralists the employers in Australias wool industry wanted the freedom to employ non-union labour The AWU said no who rules in the workplace Does the boss have all the control To what extent should the boss negotiate pay and conditions with workers or a union The unions were not strong enough to win these battles against the united might of employers and governments willing to use the law police and military - to help the pastoralists win the industrial struggle Federation in 1901 brought a Commonwealth industrial relations system The AWU was the first union to secure a federal award under the new conciliation and arbitration system - the Pastoral Industry Award With this award the AWU was able to ensure that workers had a say in pay rates and workplace conditions That precedent continued to guide Australian industrial relations throughout most of the twentieth century The AWU grew to represent workers across a range of industries - in mining and construction in manufacturing and rural sector The Pastoral Industry Award has continued throughout the history of the AWU It is still being updated and is still facing attack from employers and hostile governments Since the election of the Howard Government in 1996 the powers of the AIRC have been reduced workers can now sign individual employment contracts with their employer Employers and their supporters in the Howard Government are still trying to win an industrial war that began in the 1890sThe Howard Government also wants to continue attacks on the award system by stripping back awards to a few
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