Vale Professor Joe Isaac

Former IRSV President, The Hon. Professor Emeritus Joe Isaac AO, FASSA died on 17 September 2019.

Joe held chairs at and was Professor Emeritus at Monash University and The University of Melbourne.  He had also served as Deputy Chancellor, Monash University, and was long one of Australia’s most distinguished scholars and practitioners in the broad field of industrial relations/labour economics. 

Joe in 1963 (then at Monash University) was a prime mover in the formation of the IRSV under the auspices of the Industrial Relations Society of Australia (IRSA), (now known as the Australian Labour and Employment Relations Association). 

Joe became the inaugural President of the IRSV in 1963 and Sir Richard Kirby, President of the Federal Tribunal as its first Patron. Joe was also a member of the editorial board of the Journal of Industrial Relations (JIR).

The IRSV was privileged to have Joe attend the IRSV 50th Anniversary celebration function in 2013.

He is a former President of several other organizations including the Academy of the Social Sciences in Australia (ASSA).

Only last year he published an influential paper arguing for a major overhaul of IR laws to restore the power of unions and boost the "authority" of the Fair Work Commission to drive wages growth.

Earlier this year he spoke at an Athenaeum Club gathering in memory of his long-time friend, former director general of the Confederation of Australian Industry George Polites, who died aged 100.

Born in the former British colony of Penang, Isaac graduated from Melbourne University with degrees in arts and commerce before earning a PhD from the London School of Economics.

He was in 1968 appointed President of the Flight Crew Officers' Industrial Tribunal, a stepping stone to his 1974 appointment to be a presidential member of the Australian Conciliation and Arbitration Commission. He served as Deputy President on the tribunal for 13 years.

In 1989 Isaac was awarded an Order of Australia. In 2002, Isaac launched the archives of former Australian Conciliation and Arbitration Commission president Sir Richard Kirby, later being declared one of its "living treasures”. Continuing his academic career, Isaac co-edited two collections of scholarly IR essays, 2006's Labour Market Deregulation: Rewriting The Rules and 2011's Work and Employment Relations: An Era of Change.

His contribution to IR has long been recognised at Monash and Melbourne universities with an annual symposium in his honour. The next one will be on 30 October 2019, at 6pm, at Monash Business School, Caulfield. 

He was until his death an active member of the International Consortium for Research in Employment and Work (iCREW), Centre for Global Business, Monash Business School, regularly participating in its seminars. Its Co-Director, Professor Greg Bamber, said: "He was an amazing friend, role-model and mentor. I was always learning from him and will miss him more than words can say.”

Massachusetts Institute of Technology Professor Thomas A. Kochan, former President, International Industrial Relations Research Association (now known as the International Labour and Employment Relations Association) said: "Joe Isaac was a stalwart leader in Australian economic and labor policy and academic affairs for many decades and a role model for all of us who were fortunate to learn from his wisdom and experience.  Our field of industrial relations holds in highest regard leaders who excel in research, teaching and mentoring, and public service.  No one did this better and with more humility than Joe Isaac.  His legacy will live on through the annual symposium  and through the lessons he taught us by his words and actions."

The IRSV gratefully acknowledges the permission of Workplace Express to reproduce aspects of its tribute to Joe.