Corporate governance and workplace partnerships project

Project Overview

The Partnerships at Work project is a joint initiative of the Centre for Corporate Law and the Centre for Employment and Labour Relations Law. Professors Richard Mitchell and Ian Ramsay are the Chief Investigators for the project.

Project Summary

Type of Grant
ARC Discovery Project Grant

Funds Received
$640 500

Project Aims

The project will examine the interaction between several key factors in the creation and sustainability of 'Partnerships at Work'. These factors include particular employment systems, forms of corporate governance and ownership structures. The project proposes to discover how these various factors have interacted so as to give rise to — or fail to give rise to — 'high performance' partnership-style relations at work.

There is a widely held view that production systems based on hierarchical management control, conflictual work relationships and low trust between management and labour (the Anglo-American model) have been less competitive than models based upon co-operative/high trust work relations (e.g. Germany and Japan). Governments in systems historically marked by 'conflictual' employment systems are now supporting the development of more co-operative workplace relations systems between employers and employees. In Britain this has been based in the Blair government's 'Third Way' policy which actively seeks the promotion of a 'Partnership at Work' agenda. In Australia the Federal Government has also been pursuing a policy of 'co-operative' workplace relations based upon individual contracts, employee participation, more flexible working arrangements, performance appraisal, and various forms of profit sharing, including employee share ownership. More recently the Victorian Labor government has announced its 'Partners at Work' program designed 'to encourage Victorian workplaces to develop partnerships with employees, unions and other shareholders…to improve workplace performance'. As a result of this policy direction, the identification of those factors which support the development and sustainability of co-operative 'partnership-style' workplace systems is now one of the most important issues in contemporary employment relations.

At the same time, there is debate concerning whether there will be international convergence around the Anglo-American model of corporate governance and ownership structure. The emergence of corporate governance frameworks based around highly liquid capital markets, dispersed share-ownership, vulnerability to hostile takeover bids and the presence of large institutional investors anxious for quarterly improvements can entrench a narrow understanding of 'shareholder value' as the dominant objective of corporate management. On the other hand, systems of corporate governance characterised by relatively concentrated patterns of shareholding, with a dominant shareholder holding a majority or near majority stake, are said to more easily establish and sustain co-operative arrangements between all relevant stakeholders, including industry employees.

This project will focus on the interaction between these factors within a regulatory environment established by labour law and corporate law. What are the elements of 'co-operative' or 'partnership' employment systems? What are the integrating institutions or conventions - if any - that incorporate workers or their representatives into managerial processes? How do company directors actually balance the interests of employees and shareholders within the framework of the obligations imposed by directors' duties? How flexible are those duties? What possible shortcomings might exist in the practical application of those duties? Is there a congruence between types of corporate governance systems and types of employment system?

Chief Investigators

The chief investigators for this project are:

Professor Richard Mitchell
Professor Ian Ramsay

The researchers for this project are:

Ms Meredith Jones
Mr Anthony O'Donnell
Mr Jarrod Lenne
Ms Shelley Marshall
Ms Kirsten Anderson

Publications

Marshall S and Ramsay I, 'Stakeholders and Directors' Duties: Law, Theory and Evidence' (2012) 35 University of New South Wales Law Journal 291-316

Mitchell R, O'Donnell A , Marshall S, Ramsay I and Jones M, Law, Corporate Governance and Partnerships at Work: A Study of Australian Regulatory Style and Business Practice, Ashgate, England, 2011, 229 pages

Marshall S, Anderson K and Ramsay I, 'Are Superannuation Funds and Other Institutional Investors in Australia Acting like 'Universal Investors'?' (2009) 51 Journal of Industrial Relations 439-458

Marshall S, Mitchell R and Ramsay I, 'Varieties of Capitalism, Corporate Governance and Employment Systems in Australia' in S Marshall, R Mitchell and I Ramsay (eds), Varieties of Capitalism, Corporate Governance and Employees, Melbourne University Publishing, Melbourne, 2008, 1-15

Jones M, Marshall S, Mitchell R and Ramsay I, 'Corporate Governance, Shareholder Primacy and the Interests of Employees: Evidence from a Survey of Australian Directors' in S Marshall, R Mitchell and I Ramsay (eds), Varieties of Capitalism, Corporate Governance and Employees, Melbourne University Publishing, Melbourne, 2008, 158-187

Anderson K, Marshall S and Ramsay I, 'Do Australian Institutional Investors Aim to Influence the Human Resources Practices of Investee Companies?' in S Marshall, R Mitchell and I Ramsay (eds), Varieties of Capitalism, Corporate Governance and Employees, Melbourne University Publishing, Melbourne, 2008, 245-276

Anderson M, Jones M, Marshall S, Mitchell R and Ramsay I, 'Shareholder Primacy and Directors' Duties: An Australian Perspective' (2008) 8 Journal of Corporate Law Studies 161-190

Anderson K, Marshall S, Mitchell R and Ramsay I, 'Union Shareholder Activism in the Context of Declining Labour Law Protection: Four Australian Case Studies' (2007) 15 Corporate Governance: An International Review 45-56

Anderson K and Ramsay I, 'From the Picketline to the Boardroom: Union Shareholder Activism in Australia' (2006) 24 Company and Securities Law Journal 279-322

Mitchell R, O'Donnell A and Ramsay I, 'Shareholder Value and Employee Interests: Intersections of Corporate Governance, Corporate Law and Labor Law' (2005) 23 Wisconsin International Law Journal 417-476

Meredith Jones, Shelley Marshall, Richard Mitchell and Ian Ramsay, Corporate Governance and Workplace Partnerships Case Studies (2008), Centre for Corporate Law and Securities Regulation and Centre for Employment and Labour Relation Law, The University of Melbourne and Department of Business Law and Taxation, Monash University.

Shelley Marshall, Richard Mitchell and Ian Ramsay, (editors) Varieties of Capitalism, Corporate Governance and Employees (2008), Melbourne University Publishing.

Reviews of this book are available here.

Malcolm Anderson, Meredith Jones, Shelley Marshall, Richard Mitchell and Ian Ramsay, 'Evaluating the Shareholder Primacy Theory: Evidence From a Survey of Australian Directors' (2007), Centre for Corporate Law and Securities Regulation and Centre for Employment and Labour Relation Law, The University of Melbourne.

Meredith Jones, Shelley Marshall, Richard Mitchell and Ian Ramsay, 'Company Directors' Views Regarding Stakeholders' (2007), Centre for Corporate Law and Securities Regulation and Centre for Employment and Labour Relation Law, The University of Melbourne.

Kirsten Anderson, Shelley Marshall and Ian Ramsay, 'Do Australian Institutional Investors Aim to Influence the Human Resource Practices of Investee Companies?' (2007), Centre for Corporate Law and Securities Regulation and Centre for Employment and Labour Relation Law, The University of Melbourne.

Richard Mitchell and Anthony O'Donnell, 'What is Labour Law Doing About 'Partnership at Work'? British and Australian Developments Compared' (2007), Centre for Employment and Labour Relation Law, The University of Melbourne.

Anthony Forsyth, Samantha Korman and Shelley Marshall, 'Joint Consultative Committees in Australia; An Empirical Update', Paper presented to the 3rd Australian Labour Law Association National Conference, Brisbane, 22-23 September 2006.

Andrew Barnes, Tanya Josev, Jarrod Lenne, Shelley Marshall, Richard Mitchell, Ian Ramsay and Cameron Rider, 'Employee Share Ownership Schemes: Two Case Studies' (2006), Centre for Corporate Law and Securities Regulation and Centre for Employment and Labour Relation Law, The University of Melbourne.

Kirsten Anderson and Ian Ramsay, 'From the Picketline to the Boardroom: Union Shareholder Activism in Australia' (2005), Centre for Corporate Law and Securities Regulation and Centre for Employment and Labour Relation Law, The University of Melbourne.

Shelley Marshall and Richard Mitchell, 'Enterprise Bargaining, Managerial Prerogative and the Protection of Workers Rights: An Argument on the Role of Law and Regulatory Strategy in Australia under the Workplace Relations Act 1996' (2005), The University of Melbourne.

Paul Gollan and Glenn Patmore, 'Transporting the European Social Partnership Model to Australia' (2005), Centre for Corporate Law and Securities Regulation and Centre for Employment and Labour Relations Law, The University of Melbourne.

Richard Mitchell, Anthony O'Donnell and Ian Ramsay, 'Shareholder Value and Employee Interests: Intersections Between Corporate Governance, Corporate Law and Labour Law' (2005), Centre for Corporate Law and Securities Regulation and Centre for Employment and Labour Relations Law, The University of Melbourne.

Shelley Marshall, 'Hedging around the Question of the Relationship Between Corporate Governance and Labour Regulation' (2005) 18 Australian Journal of Labour Law 97.

Jarrod Lenne, Richard Mitchell and Ian Ramsay, 'Employee Share Ownership Schemes in Australia: A Survey of Key Issues and Themes' (2005), Centre for Corporate Law and Securities Regulation and Centre for Employment and Labour Relations Law, The University of Melbourne.

R.Mitchell, R. Campbell, A. Barnes, E. Bicknell, K. Creighton, J. Fetter and S. Korman, 'Protecting the Worker's Interest in Enterprise Bargaining: The 'No Disadvantage' Test in the Australian Federal Industrial Jurisdiction', Final Report, Workplace Innovation Unit, Industrial Relations Victoria, 2004.

R. Mitchell, 'Enterprise Bargaining: What Has it Got to do With Workplace Partnerships?', Centre for Employment and Labour Relaitons Law, 2004.

R. Mitchell,' Australian Industrial Instruments and the Capacity to Manage', Paper delivered to the Institute of Public Affairs Seminar on The Capacity to Manage Index - A New Diagnostic Tool, November 2003.

R. Mitchell and J. Fetter, 'The Individualisation of Employment Relationships and Adoption of High Performance Work Practices: Final Report', Workplace Innovation Unit, Industrial Relations Victoria, 2003.

R. Mitchell and J. Fetter, 'Human Resource Management and Individualisation in Australian Labour Law' (2003) 45 Journal of Industrial Relations, p. 292.

J. Fetter, 'The Strategic Use of Individual Employment Agreements: Three Case Studies, Centre for Employment and Labour Relations Law', The University of Melbourne, December 2002.

R. Mitchell and J. Fetter, 'Human Resource Management and the Individualisation of Australian Industrial Relations, Centre for Employment and Labour Relations Law', The University of Melboure, August 2002.

Events

Seminars and Conferences held as part of this project have included:

Corporate Governance and the Management of Labour: Australian Perspectives

This conference was co-hosted with the Centre for Employment and Labour Relations Law, The University of Melbourne and the Corporate Law and Accountability Research Group, Department of Business Law and Taxation, Monash University.

Andrew Pendleton: 'The Impact of Stock-Market Listing on Employment Practices? A Comparison of Listed and Privately-Owned Workplaces in the UK'

Tania Josev and Andrew Barnes: 'Employee Share Ownership Schemes in Practice'

Geof Stapledon: 'Institutional Shareholders and Corporate Governance'

Kirsten Anderson and Ian Ramsay: 'Union Shareholder Activism in Australia'

Anthony O'Donnell: 'Shareholder Value, Corporations Law and Labour Law: Aspects of the Australian Experience'

Richard Mitchell and Shelley Marshall: 'Enterprise Bargaining and Partnerships at Work'.