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  • Print publication year: 2017
  • Online publication date: August 2018

Chapter 9 - Emerging issues and new frontiers



Most of this book has dealt with labour and employment law insofar as it applies to Australians in Australia. There is every justification for that. Most people still work in one country or for an employer based in one country – and live their lives centred on a community.

However, times are changing. Not infrequently, corporations operate transnationally; there are global supply chains; and an employee based in one country may transfer to an overseas office of their employer. Such developments raise numerous questions, ranging from how the law balances the power of the global corporation with that of the local worker, through to how a conflict of laws may be resolved in a particular instance. As Professor Ewing recently observed, to neglect transnational labour law is an ‘extraordinary omission, given the impact of globalisation on workers’ rights and the power of global capital. Extraordinary too, in light of the developing body of principles, rules and practices regulating transnational corporations.’

Parallel to those changes in the basic nature of work and the law, there are further developments around the manner in which work is performed. Not infrequently, volunteers will perform important work (in sometimes dangerous places), and issues may arise as to whether there is an employment relationship there at all. Beyond that, some people are watching a world in which their very job seems to be disappearing with the advent of new technology and automation.

Indeed, labour and employment law face many emerging issues and new frontiers – and this chapter discusses those:

  • • Issue 1: Transnational and international labour and employment law issues. As observed in Chapter 3, there has always been a tension between international trade and labour. Likewise, there has long been a study of the influence one country's laws might have on the employment laws of another. The advent of large transnational corporations and global supply chains beg questions as to how best to develop such transnational and international labour laws. Solutions may rest in corporate codes of conduct and regional trading agreements, as well as International Labour Organization (ILO) treaties and international law suits. Transnational labour law seeks to extend beyond the nation state, yet relies on nation states contributing to its development and enforcement.
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