26 November 2013

The Italian Job

When it comes to improving dispute resolution systems pertaining to the emergency and essential services, there’s always something to be learned from other jurisdictions.

While we haven’t really given this much thought in Australia, the move away from arbitration at the federal level means we need to come up with an alternative model. This thinking formed the backdrop to my recent visit to our good friends at the University of Bologna in Italy where I was able to discuss my own comparative work on collective bargaining and dispute resolution systems. While Italy obviously has a very different legal system, political structure, and socio-cultural mores, I believe there are still lessons to be drawn from the contemporary experiences of both countries.

Interestingly, both Italy and Australia allow some sort of collective bargaining where their police are concerned. The key difference is this: while our police can go to arbitration and are prevented from striking (thus minimising the chances of civic disruption), the civil (but not the military) police in Italy can strike, with their bargaining disputes tending to be resolved, I’m told, politically and in the absence of any real arbitration. So, while our move away from federal level arbitration is necessitating the need for an alternative, I don’t know that looking to Europe for inspiration is the answer. While drawing lessons from other territories can certainly be highly beneficial, the political environment for police labour relations in Europe makes it probably less instructive for Australia than other (common law) examples.

On the flipside, our Italian friends were very interested in the dispute resolution lessons they could draw from both our experiences as well as other dispute-resolution models I’m looking at. Considering Australia’s serious history and knowledge of arbitration, there were some audience members very interested in hearing about different models as well as their potential application to other spheres, such as commercial banking. On a closing note, I was going to mention the amazing food, wine, fashion and cars I encountered on my trip, but that would just be boasting.

Author: Giuseppe Carabetta – Senior Lecturer  at the University of Sydney Business School

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