Two paths to prosperity? work organisation and industrial relations decentralisation in Australia

Paul Boreham, Richard Hall, Bill Harley

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)


The shift of an industrial relations system from the centralised settlement of pay and work conditions to the encouragement of enterprise-level bargaining presents industrial relations actors with the opportunity to influence the organisation of work in one of two ways. Drawing on a range of theories of work organisation and production we contrast profitability enhancement strategies and productivity enhancement strategies. The recent dramatic shift in the Australian industrial relations system from a highly centralised and regulated regime towards one characterised by an enterprise focus provides an illuminating case study. Utilising data drawn from a survey of Australian workplaces which have recently concluded enterprise-level bargains, we examine the apparent effect of those agreements and assess the emerging trends in terms of the two contrasting strategic orientations. We conclude that while elements of each strategy are present in Australian industry, the dominant tendency is oriented more toward short-term profitability and cost minimisation than long term productivity enhancement. Further, we use the findings as a basis for evaluating critically the utility of conceptualising paths of development in terms of two competing strategic orientations.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)449-468
Number of pages20
JournalWork, Employment and Society
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Sept 1996
Externally publishedYes

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