Partnerships at Work The Interaction between Employment Systems, Corporate Governance and Ownership Structure

Centre Members: R. Mitchell and G. Patmore
Research Staff: K. Anderson, M. Jones, J. Lenne and S. Marshall
Associates: I. Ramsay

Richard Mitchell and Professor Ian Ramsay, of the Law School 's Centre for Corporate Law and Securities Regulation, received a Discovery Grant from the Australian Research Council of $640,500 to undertake a five year research project commencing in 2003. 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. In particular, the project will focus on the interaction between these factors within a regulatory environment established by labour law and corporate law.

Anthony O'Donnell, Meredith Jones and Jarrod Lenne worked as researchers on the project in 2003-2004, with Shelley Marshall joining them in late 2004. Preliminary research commenced in the areas of shareholder primacy in Australian corporate law, the regulation and incidence of employee share ownership plans, the concept of workplace partnership and the relation between high performance work systems and the Australian system of labour regulation. In 2004, research was undertaken into the interaction between labour regulation and corporations law, and case-studies of companies with employee share ownership schemes were completed. Articles arising from this research are awaiting publication. A further article concerning union shareholder activism is also nearing completion. Research into the incidence of Joint Consultative Committees in Australia was also conducted, with a publication from this work expected later in the year. The selection of target case-study companies was finalised in late 2004 and the case-studies will be performed throughout 2005. A series of seminars will run throughout 2005 in order to publicise findings to date and as well as related work. A large-scale survey examining directors' duties and the notion of workplace partnership will occur in 2006.

On a related front, Glenn Patmore and Paul J. Gollan (Department of Industrial Relations, London School of Economics and Political Science) have contributed to the debate on the merits of developing workplace partnerships by co-editing a book entitled Partnership at Work: The Challenge of Employee Democracy: Labor Essays 2003. They are continuing their research by considering the applicability of European forms of social partnership in the Australian industrial relations context.

Glenn Patmore is also examining new forms of political engagement to chart future directions for participative politics. In particular, he has explored new ways in which governments and private organisations may foster participative politics through empowering employees in the workplace and developing new workplace rights. In 2004, Joyce Chia and Glenn Patmore wrote a book chapter, and Glenn Patmore edited a book of collected essays that touched upon this topic.

At the end of 2008, all major work on this project was completed, with two books being published from the findings. A book arising from the project was published in 2008. This book is an edited collection of essays, published by Melbourne University Press: Marshall, S., Mitchell, R., and Ramsay, I. (eds.), Varieties of Capitalism, Corporate Governance and Employees (2008). It is expected that a second book will report on and analyse the major findings of the project. It is expected to be published in late 2009 or 2010.