There are proven benefits to managers, employees and trade unions working together to achieve mutual gains. The tradition of adversarial workplace relations in Australia, so embedded in our culture, institutions and politics, is a powerful obstacle. But the potential for cooperative transformation is illustrated by the examples in this book. Drawing on research undertaken in partnership with the Fair Work Commission and the Newcastle Branch of the New South Wales Industrial Relations Society, two sets of case studies are presented. Each involves industrial tribunals working not so much to resolve disputes – their traditional role – but to help avoid disputes arising in the first place.
Part of the book tells the fascinating story, spanning several decades, of the development of cooperative processes in the Hunter region. Deployed most notably on large scale construction projects, the model has delivered outstanding results for businesses and workers alike. So too has the Fair Work Commission’s New Approaches program, two early successes from which are outlined. Each study features interviews with some of the managers, workers and representatives involved, recounting in their own words both the challenges and outcomes of the journey towards cooperation.
This book, written in an accessible form by leading experts on employment relations, explores the reasons why these initiatives have been successful and what lessons can be learnt for future attempts to promote workplace cooperation. It is indispensable reading for managers, union officials, practitioners, policy-makers and anyone interested in the future of employment relations.
Foreword by Justice Iain Ross AO
About the Authors
Part I – Background and Key Concepts
1. From Adversarialism to Cooperation at Work: Finding a Path to Success
2. Workplace Cooperation and the Potential for Mutual Gains
3. The Adversarial Tide in Australian Employment Relations
4. The Role of Industrial Tribunals
5. The Role of Third Parties in Promoting Workplace Cooperation
Part II – Case Studies: The Hunter Model
6. The Development of Cooperation in the Hunter Region
7. Case Study: Large-Scale Construction Projects
8. Case Study: Port Stephens Council
9. Case Study: Delta Electricity
Part III – Case Studies: New Approaches in the Fair Work Commission
10. The Development of ‘New Approaches’ within the Fair Work Commission
11. Case Study: Sydney Water
12. Case Study: Orora Fibre Packaging
Part IV – Lessons and the Way Forward
13. The Conditions for Success: Understanding the New Role of Industrial Tribunals
14. Lessons for Practice
15. Implications for Policy and Legislation
Appendix – How We Did It: Theory and Methodology
This important book addresses a key question: ‘how can a workplace relations system be made to work better?’ The book shows that this is far from a simple question, but the authors’ core response is that ‘better’ means by collaborative pluralism, a term they use for genuine cooperation between managements and unions. They show too that where the parties are willing, the Fair Work Commission has a vital constructive role to play. …
Unfortunately the political policymakers have had and will continue to have a great influence on what might be done to answer our original question [above] … If the tide of adversarialism reaches high tide in the political arena this will result in yet more legislation and yet more constraints on the Commission, effectively pushing its role (despite the no doubt cooperative language of the Act’s preamble) into dispute fixing rather than towards cooperation building. For the clear message of this book to be applied across more workplaces, to the benefit of both sides, then two things are necessary. First, and for whatever reason, both parties, and particularly management (which has most of the resources), have to sense a real need to genuinely cooperate. Second, the Commission has to have the resources to devote to the time-consuming process of facilitation. Perhaps a third requirement would be to read this book.
Ray Fells, Journal of Industrial Relations, November 2018
The book is well-written, accessible to a wide audience and very thoughtfully presented. It concludes by helpfully identifying eight ‘lessons’ arising from the research. The overall message is that willing industrial parties, who are accountable to their constituency, properly led, prepared to extent trust and learn from missteps, can, and do, achieve mutually satisfactory and productive outcomes in the workplace. … The Authors are to be commended for bringing this important research forward. The Fair Work Commission should also be warmly acknowledged for its generous cooperation and contribution.
Andrew Dallas, Labour and Industry, Journal of the Social and Economic Relations of Work, November 2018
This book does not begin with a list of workplaces or industries which suffered from a lack of cooperation and the events which eventually unfolded as a result. This would involve both finger pointing and would be remarkably divisive. It would not promote cooperation. This tells us something about the book. It is in part an advocacy book about ways of making collective arrangements work better.
The book begins quite properly with a theoretical and historical section, which discusses definitions of cooperation, as well as the role of adversarialism, the role of tribunals, and the role of third parties, and indeed trade unions. This is not the purpose of this book. It concentrates on positive case studies involving construction projects, a local government council, Delta Electricity, Sydney Water; and Orora Fibre Packing, which are discussed in detail as a source of ideas for the future. …
In short, this is a useful book for anyone interested in collective labour relations.
Reg Hamilton, Labour History, November 2018