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Occupation description

Industrial relations (IR) or Workplace Relations (WR) is a field within Human Resources that deals with the relationships between employees and employers. IR staff work to make sure the business complies with industrial relations laws, provide advice on industrial awards and agreements, and negotiate pay rates and conditions. Your work may deal with issues such as working conditions, contracts of employment, work place agreements, performance management, equal opportunity, maternity or paternity leave, absence management and grievance procedures. The rail industry has a wide range of industrial awards. These include awards for government employees, professional engineers, trades and office workers.

The growth of partnerships between the public and private sectors has created an additional level of complexity to industrial relations. WR officers work closely with human resources, line management and union representatives.

Knowledge, skills and attributes

You will need to have strong persuasive communication skills to undertake the job of workplace relations officer, plus the ability to mediate and resolve conflict. You need the ability to read complex documents and explain this information to others, analyse situations, facilitate interaction and negotiate joint actions.

Working conditions

WR officers generally work standard office hours Monday to Friday and are usually based at head office. You may travel to other locations including regional depots and train stations, depending on the size of your organisation. If you work for an organisation that has freight, you may find yourself in remote mining areas. You will need to work with workplace and union representatives, as well as management and the Australasian Railway Association (ARA) industrial relations experts or lawyers.

Entrance requirements and ongoing training and development

A workplace relations officer requires a bachelor degree in a relevant area such as industrial relations on human resources. In some instances, relevant experience and/or on-the-job training may be required in addition to the formal qualification. Occasionally, workplace relations officers may come from a role in administration, a union or assisting a HR officer. If so, they would be required to take on further study at tertiary level.  Some rail organisations may offer a graduate program for HR roles. Professional associations may help you to stay current on industrial relations laws which change regularly.

The value of a career in the rail industry

For even more details on what you might earn, the diversity of companies you could work for and the career opportunities available, visit the following careers and training websites. Careers in Rail by the Australasian Railway Association; About the Rail Industry by Rail Skills Australasia and Rail Training by the Transport and Logistics Industry Skills Council (TLISC).

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Career paths

Typically, a workplace relations officer will progress from an entry level position such as a graduate through to a more senior role such as an advisor, consultant or manager. Your career may take many turns depending on what stage you are at in life and your personal circumstances. You may work with rail partners on large infrastructure projects. Once in the rail industry, to progress your career you will need to complete additional studies depending on organisational and state requirements.

The information provided here is generic. Job titles and the experience and qualifications needed to move into other jobs may vary slightly depending on the structure and needs of your organisation, and government rules and regulations.

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Career Path Flowchart

Typical career path for a workplace relations officer